Nature of Student Research
Because of the interdisciplinary nature of the PPE program, our undergraduates are able to cut across boundaries and collaborate with a variety of faculty in an array of subjects. PPE is particularly committed both to undergraduate research and to the concept of “research without boundaries.” Our curriculum is structured in such a way that students interested in doing research can design a theme rather than concentrating on a subject. For example, students wanting to study distributive justice may choose courses in Philosophy, Economics, Political Science and other departments in the College, in Legal Studies at Wharton, in Government Administration at Fels, and in Law at the Law School.
In the past PPE students have done research on topics in economics, political science, public policy, psychology, applied ethics, law, and political philosophy. PPE makes an effort to match students with faculty who have compatible research interests. In addition, we are planning to start summer research opportunities for PPE students; students will co-write proposals for summer research with faculty and will be actively involved in doing research (rather than working as research assistants).
Several PPE faculty, postdoctoral fellows, and graduate students are interested in the application of game theory and behavioral decision making to social, political, economic, and moral contexts. We are involved in research on the behavioral foundations of moral choices, the behavioral determinants of trust, fairness and cooperation, the emergence, stability, or destruction of norms within an evolutionary game theoretic context. Some of our research work involves laboratory experiments in collaboration with the Psychology department and Wharton. Other research entails computer simulations of the evolution of norms of fairness and reciprocity. We aim to develop a theoretical understanding of social and moral norms by carefully developing operational definitions of them, in order to make predictions that can be empirically tested. These basic techniques are already being extended to the examination of the social structure of science, the role of emotions in norm enforcement and punishment, and the evolution of political institutions.
PPE has a small amount of funds for student research, which must be conducted under the supervision of faculty at Penn. In general, students are encouraged to apply for funding from other sources, as our resources are unlikely to cover the demand for such funds.
1.Students who believe they have a viable research proposal should fill out this form, and send it to ppemajor at sas dot upenn dot edu.
2.Proposals for such research must be submitted by the end of the first week of classes of the semester in which the research will take place, however the earlier the submission, the better.
3. Students should not make any plans based on obtaining the research funds until they have been formally notified about the amount they will receive.
The following students have received support in the recent past, either by PPE or by working with a PPE supervisor who has supported their funding proposal.
Douglas Miller Grant received grants from CURF (Penn Climate Action Grant) and IGEL at Wharton to study "Sustainable Behavior Inducement" in an environmental change context. (Supervisor Cristina Bicchieri)
James Katz received financial support from PPE to study "Motivated Confabaulation". (Supervisor Jason Dana)
Matthew Frias received financial support from PPE for summer research on the European Union and the Lisbon Treaty (supervisor Peter Steiner)
Landon Robinson received financial support from PPE to study "Cell phone distrubance of attention and enjoyment" (Supervisor Jason Dana)
Elizabeth Friedman received financial support from PPE to study "Nosy Preferences Experiment" (supervisor Jason Dana)
Amanda Johnson received financial support from PPE and CURF to study “Economic Stimulus: Investigating Where the Money Has Gone and Why” (supervisor John Gasper)
Many of our students publish their research in the PPE student journal, where such research goes through several rounds of reviewing. Students interested in publishing their research there should contact the editorial board at ppejournal@sas