Pablo Hernandez

Assistant Professor of Economics
Phone: +971 (02) 628-5356

NYU Abu Dhabi
PO Box 129188



Curriculum Vitae


Research Interests

Political Economy, Experimental Economics and Economics of Organizations.

Working Papers

“On the Origins of Leadership Through Communication: The Role of Context and Social Preferences” (Job Market Paper). pdf

We offer a new approach to study how groups lacking formal leaders coordinate change. Using controlled laboratory experiments, we find that leadership is a critical catalyst for change. A key novelty of our approach is to exogenously vary the context in which leadership takes place. By varying the payoffs for not participating in change when others do so, we identify an interaction effect between the characteristics of leaders and the underlying context in which leadership emerges. In particular, when these payoffs are low, leadership is ubiquitous—no special features distinguish leaders. When change requires overcoming high monetary incentives favoring the status quo, leaders tend to be “exceptional.” These types of leaders exhibit a distinct non-monetary taste for mutual cooperation; and in the cases where they do not have this trait, they present little aversion to lying. An implication of our results is that intrinsically motivated leaders are essential for successful innovation.

"Collusion or Social Preferences?'' with Dylan Minor and Dana Sisak. pdf

We study relative performance schemes in light of social preferences. To the extent players are other regarding, they provide lower efforts as they internalize the negative externality they impose on other players. Thus, players with other regarding preferences are more likely to sustain collusive behavior, as traditionally defined. Our experiments confirm that this is indeed the case. Each additional other-regarding group member significantly decreases group effort by about 15%. We also find that when communication is allowed, it is typically a selfish subject who emerges as a leader and further increases collusion by suggesting low efforts for the group. Finally, we find that, when subjects play against simulated players so their actions do not affect real players’ payoffs, subjects of any social type act as selfish types.


Work in Progress

"Paths to Peace and Prosperity: State Formation with Endogenous Military and Productive Capacities,'' with Ernesto Dal Bo and Sebastian Mazzuca.

Jointly achieving state consolidation and economic growth must break away from a trap: the more growth is fostered, the stronger the incentives for challenging state control over resources. We study the trade-offs facing the ruling elite of a proto-state on its path to growth and state consolidation. This study is relevant both for the problem of state formation in historical perspective and to the problem of state building in modern times. We distinguish between two forms of investment: in military capacity and productive capacity. We derive lessons for state-building by showing how investments in military capacity might have to precede investments in productive capabilities, and how a balance between the two may have to be maintained to ensure prosperity and peace. We show how economic shocks and arms innovations may trigger state consolidation and economic take-off or keep polities in a trap of political conflict and economic stagnation.


"Reputation in Contests,'' with Steve Tadelis.

In repeated contests with incomplete information, agents take into account that effort exerted in early periods affects play in future rounds--it affects own and others' beliefs. Agents' incentives to win the early tournament depend on its direct payoffs and the expected rewards of future contests. Under some circumstances, it pays off to win to signal strength, but in others to lose to signal weakness--when the uninformed agent is relatively strong (resp. weak) the informed agent has incentives to under-exert (over-exert) effort, relative to one shot games, in order to signal weakness (strength). The intuition for this result is simple: agents will try to avoid making the opponent to believe they are close in ability, because that would create a fierce battle. We show this result holds for Tullock and probit contest success functions.