Experimental Economics Seminar - Ieda Matavelli (UNSW)

Experimental and Behavioural Economics Seminar Series

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Laura Liu


Title: We Don't Talk About Boys: An Experiment on Masculinity Norms in Brazil

Abstract:  This paper provides causal evidence on the role of communication in shaping misperceptions about masculinity norms among 2,249 Brazilian teenagers. In this setting, a majority of students overestimate the share of classmates who hold traditional views of masculinity with respect to emotional vulnerability and the use of violence. I randomly assigned students to a one-time moderated discussion group to learn peers’ opinions about these masculinity beliefs. The discussion groups reduced misperceptions about classmates’ beliefs by at least 50% in the very short-run. The effects are similar whether students self-selected into speaking, or were randomly selected. Results persist after 3 weeks, especially for boys, which indicates that girls communicate more than boys about masculinity after the discussions. I also show that discussion groups reduce boys’ own agreement with traditional views of masculinity, both in the short- and medium-run, potentially suggesting the presence of a feedback loop between misperceptions and first-order beliefs among adolescents. Finally, using an embedded survey experiment, I provide suggestive evidence that the potential revelation of survey responses to classmates increases boys’ self-reports of masculine behaviours in the control group, but these increases are fully offset by the masculinity discussion groups.