The National Centre for Econometric Research (NCER) will hold a short course titled, "Behavioural Public Choice" at QUT, from Tuesday 12 to Monday 18 June, 2012 (five lessons over the period). If you are interested in attending, please contact the Administration Coordinator.

All QUT higher degree research students and interested staff members are welcome to attend, free-of-charge. For other interested parties, please contact the Administration Coordinator for course fees.

All participants are required to contact the Administration Coordinator for registration purposes.

The lectures will be held in Room Z808, Gardens Point Campus, QUT.

Course Convener

Rebecca Morton, Professor of Politics, New York University

Course Objectives

This course explores the experimental work in public choice. Specifically, the focus is on experimental work evaluating theories of politics and political behavior using experimental economics methods.  Fortunately, Thomas Palfrey has a chapter in the forthcoming second volume of the Handbook of Experimental Economics, which provides a nice detailed summary and guide to this literature, which we will largely follow (although due to time limitations, we will cover some of the literature in more depth than other parts).  Following Palfrey, we will cover this literature by substantive emphasis, beginning with experimental research on committee bargaining and ending with discussions of voting methods and procedures.  Below is an outline of the material we will cover on each date.  The full bibliography for the references follows the outline.

Course Schedule (tentative)

Date and Time Topic

Tuesday 12 June

10 am - 12 pm

Topic 1 – Structured Committee Bargaining

We address the experimental research on structured bargaining from a noncooperative game theoretic perspective with specific emphasis on experiments testing the Baron/Ferejohn legislative bargaining model as compared to the empirical regularity known as Gamson’s Law and alternative voting models such as Morelli’s Demand Bargaining model. 


*Palfrey, Handbook Chapter, Section 2
Baron and Ferejohn, 1986
McKelvey 1991
*Frechette, et al 2003, 2005a,b,c*, 2011
Morelli (1999)
*Diermeier and Morton (2009)
Diermeier and Gailmard (2006)
*Battaglini and Palfrey (2011)
Battaglini et al (2010)

Wednesday 13 June

10 am - 12 pm

Topic 1 - Structured Committee Bargaining (Continued)

Topic 2 – Elections and Candidate Competition

We begin with experiments on two candidate elections and the robustness of the median voter theorem to situations where candidates have policy preferences and/or quality differences.  We then turn to experiments on elections with more than two candidates or parties and mechanisms by which voters might form coalitions (through polls, campaign contributions, and majority requirements).


*Palfrey, Handbook Chapter, Section 3
McKelvey and Ordeshook 1990
Forsythe, et al (1993, 1996)
Rietz et al (1998)
*Aragones and Palfrey (2004)
Morton (1992)
*Morton and Rietz (2007)
*Landa and Duell (2012)


Thursday 14 June

2:30 pm - 4:30 pm

Topic 2 - Elections and Candidate Competition continued

Topic 3 – Voter Turnout

One of the most controversial predictions of public choice suggests that turnout in large elections is irrational.   That is, as the electorate size grows, the probability that a single vote is pivotal declines and thus we would expect that voters who are voting based on the outcome of the election would have little incentive to do so if voting is at all costly. Yet, large numbers of individuals vote in elections.  Numerous experiments have attempted to understand what motivates such voters and we will consider this literature in detail.


*Palfrey, Handbook Chapter, Section 4
Palfrey and Rosenthal (1983, 1985)
Schram and Sonnemans (1996)
*Levine and Palfrey (2005)
Duffy and Tavits (2008)
Grosser and Schram (2010)
*Feddersen et al (2009)
*Morton and Tyran (2012)

Friday 15 June

10 am - 12 pm

Topic 3 - Voter Turnout continued

Topic 4 – Information Aggregation and Voting

Condorcet proposed that voting is an efficient way for information to be aggregated.  This reasoning has been used to support the idea of voting by juries and other groups as a better way to make decisions than delegating decision making to a single individual Yet, recent theoretical research has suggested that strategic concerns can lead to voting outcomes that are less efficient than individual decision making, depending on the voting rule used to aggregate preferences.  However, allowing voters to abstain or communicate can sometimes mitigate these problems.  We explore the experimental research testing the theoretical issues of information aggregation through voting.


*Palfrey, Handbook Chapter, Section 5
Austen-Smith and Banks (1986)
Feddersen and Pesendorfer (1988, 1996, 1997, 1998)
Guarnaschelli et al (2000)
Ali et al (2008)
Hung and Plott (2000)
*Goeree and Yariv (2011)
*Piovesan, Morton, and Tyran (2012)
*Battaglini et al (2008, 2010)
Morton and Tyran (2010)

Monday 18 June

10 am - 12 pm

Topic 4 - Information Aggregation and Voting continued

Reading List

Please see the attached reading list which is optional.

Enquiries and Registration

For further details please contact the NCER Administration Coordinator:

Angela Fletcher
Queensland University of Technology