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We recently released the seventh edition of the EA Behavioral Science Newsletter.

Each newsletter curates papers, forum posts, reports, podcasts, resources, funding opportunities, events, jobs and research profiles that are relevant to the effective altruism and behavioral science community.

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The EA Behavioral Science Newsletter

December 2022 (#7)

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📚 Summary

📖 14 publications

📝 10 preprints & articles

💬 10 forum posts

🎧/🎦 4 podcasts & videos

💰 1 funding opportunity 

💼 2 job & volunteering opportunities

📅 4 events

👨‍🔬 Alexander Saeri profiled

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📖 Publications

Beliefs about humanity, not higher power, predict extraordinary altruism 

P. Amormino, K. O'Connell, K.M. Vekaria, E.L. Robertson, L.B. Meena & A.A. Marsh

Social and Personality Psychology Compass (2022)


Using a rare sample of altruistic kidney donors (n = 56, each of whom had donated a kidney to a stranger) and demographically similar controls (n = 75), we investigated how beliefs about human nature correspond to extraordinary altruism. Extraordinary altruists were less likely than controls to believe that humans can be truly evil. Results persisted after controlling for trait empathy and religiosity. Belief in pure good was not associated with extraordinary altruism. We found no differences in the religiosity and spirituality of extraordinary altruists compared to controls. Findings suggest that highly altruistic individuals believe that others deserve help regardless of their potential moral shortcomings. Results provide preliminary evidence that lower levels of cynicism motivate costly, non-normative altruism toward strangers.


Harnessing the Power of Communication and Behavior Science to Enhance Society's Response to Climate Change

Edward W. Maibach, Sri Saahitya Uppalapati, Margaret Orr & Jagadish Thaker

Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences (2022)


A science-based understanding of climate change and potential mitigation and adaptation options can provide decision makers with important guidance in making decisions about how best to respond to the many challenges inherent in climate change. In this review we provide an evidence-based heuristic for guiding efforts to share science-based information about climate change with decision makers and the public at large. Well-informed decision makers are likely to make better decisions, but for a range of reasons, their inclinations to act on their decisions are not always realized into effective actions. We therefore also provide a second evidence-based heuristic for helping people and organizations change their climate change–relevant behaviors, should they decide to. These two guiding heuristics can help scientists and others harness the power of communication and behavior science in service of enhancing society's response to climate change.

Many Earth scientists seeking to contribute to the climate science translation process feel frustrated by the inadequacy of the societal response. Here we summarize the social science literature by offering two guiding principles to guide communication and behavior change efforts. To improve public understanding, we recommend simple, clear messages, repeated often, by a variety of trusted and caring messengers. To encourage uptake of useful behaviors, we recommend making the behaviors easy, fun, and popular.

Sure-thing vs. probabilistic charitable giving: Experimental evidence on the role of individual differences in risky and ambiguous charitable decision-making

Philipp Schoenegger & Miguel Costa-Gomes

PLOS ONE (2022)


Charities differ, among other things, alongside the likelihood that their interventions succeed and produce the desired outcomes and alongside the extent that such likelihood can even be articulated numerically. In this paper, we investigate what best explains charitable giving behaviour regarding charities that have interventions that will succeed with a quantifiable and high probability (sure-thing charities) and charities that have interventions that only have a small and hard to quantify probability of bringing about the desired end (probabilistic charities). We study individual differences in risk/ambiguity attitudes, empathy, numeracy, optimism, and donor type (warm glow vs. pure altruistic donor type) as potential predictors of this choice.

We conduct a money incentivised, pre-registered experiment on Prolific on a representative UK sample (n = 1,506) to investigate participant choices (i) between these two types of charities and (ii) about one randomly selected charity. Overall, we find little to no evidence that individual differences predict choices regarding decisions about sure-thing and probabilistic charities, with the exception that a purely altruistic donor type predicts donations to probabilistic charities when participants were presented with a randomly selected charity in (ii). Conducting exploratory equivalence tests, we find that the data provide robust evidence in favour of the absence of an effect (or a negligibly small effect) where we fail to reject the null. This is corroborated by exploratory Bayesian analyses. We take this paper to be contributing to the literature on charitable giving via this comprehensive null-result in pursuit of contributing to a cumulative science.


Other publications

📝 Preprints & articles
💬 Forum posts
🎧/🎦 Podcasts & videos


💰 Funding


💼 Jobs & volunteering
📅 Events


👨‍🔬 Researcher profile
Alexander Saeri
Dan Greene

What is your background?

I studied psychology and completed a PhD in social psychology at The University of Queensland in Australia. Since 2018 I’ve been working at BehaviourWorks Australia at Monash University, in Melbourne, Australia. This role is focused on applied behaviour science research and consulting with government departments and large organisations (corporate and non-profit). In 2019, I co-founded Ready Research with Peter Slattery and Michael Noetel. Ready is a volunteer group that conducts behaviour science research on EA-aligned topics.


What is your research area?

My focus at BehaviourWorks Australia with Monash University is on increasing the reach and impact of behaviour science evidence on policy and practice. This includes running a COVID-19 survey of behaviours and behavioural drivers for 18 months with the Victorian state government, creating a free evidence-based toolkit for scaling up behaviour change interventions, and identifying and prioritising behaviours relevant to net zero.

What are you planning to focus on in the future?

Outside of Monash, I’ve been trying to improve my knowledge and networks about the governance of advanced artificial intelligence (i.e, how we develop, deploy, and use AI) - here I’m especially interested interested in what we can learn from existing work on socio-technical transitions, policymaking under uncertainty, and how behaviour science can help make concrete progress on improving transitions to a world with advanced AI systems.


Do you want help or collaborators, if so who?

If you’re interested in working on AI safety in a non-technical or governance way, by applying behaviour science or other social science methods, I’d be keen to connect.

If you’re looking to conduct surveys or scale up behaviour change interventions, I’d be happy to help.

Do you want to share some of your work?

Here’s a poster I presented at an “AI showcase” at Monash University. Feel free to remix or adapt if useful. It tries to briefly make the case for (1) advanced AI will have significant opportunities and risks; (2) we should try and improve decisions and behaviours about AI; (3) behaviour science can offer methods to improve decisions and behaviours about AI.

Here’s a draft of an EA forum post I wrote stepping out why I think behaviour science can help AI governance. It also includes a worked example. I’d be happy to receive any feedback or talk about it some more.

Here is a preprint manuscript (under review) describing factors that influence successful scale up of behaviour change interventions. You can also use the toolkit we created.


You can contact Alexander at alexander@aksaeri.com

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Peter Slattery with help from Kai Windle, Rebecca Murerwa and Ania Szmuksta.


Previous editions: 

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6


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