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Cristina Bicchieri      

S. J. Patterson Harvie Professor of Social Thought and Comparative Ethics at the University Of Pennsylvania

Cristina Bicchieri is the S.J.P. Harvie Professor of Social Thought and Comparative Ethics in the Philosophy Department at the University of Pennsylvania, and director of the Philosophy, Politics and Economics program. She is also a Professor in the Legal Sudies department of the Wharton School, and a member of the Graduate group in Psychology. She is one of the world's foremost scholars of rational choice and philosophy of social science, and a leader in the new field of behavioral ethics.

Bicchieri received her Laurea in Philosophy, summa cum laude, from the University of Milano in 1976, and her PhD in Philosophy of Science at Cambridge University in 1984. Before moving to the University of Pennsylvania she taught in the program of Philosophy and Economics at Barnard College, Columbia University, in the Philosophy department at Notre Dame University and in the departments of Philosophy and Social and Decision Sciences at Carnegie Mellon University.

Bicchieri has developed a new theory of social norms that challenges several of the fundamental methodological assumptions of the social sciences. She argues that the stress social scientists place upon rational deliberation obscures the fact that many successful choices occur even though the individuals make their choices without much deliberation. She explores in depth the more automatic components of coordination and proposes a heuristic account of coordination that complements the more traditional deliberational account. According to the heuristic account, individuals conform with a social norm as an automatic response to cues in their situation that focus their attention on this particular norm. A social norm is analyzed as a rule for choosing in a mixed-motive game, such as the prisoner's dilemma, that members of a population prefer to follow on condition that they expect sufficiently many in the population to follow the rule. Bicchieri applies this account of social norms and heuristic selection of norms to a number of important problems in the social sciences, including bargaining, the prisoners' dilemma and suboptimal norms based upon pluralistic ignorance. Her most recent research is experimental, showing how normative and empirical expectations support norm compliance, and how manipulating such expectations can radically change behavior. Her experimental results show that most subjects have a conditional preference for following pro-social norms. Manipulating their expectations causes major behavioral changes (i.e., from fair to unfair choices, from cooperation to defection). One of the conclusions she draws is that there are no such things as stable dispositions or unconditional preferences (to be fair, reciprocate, cooperate, and so on). Another is that policymakers who want to induce pro-social behavior have to work on changing people's expectations about how other people behave in similar situations. These results have major consequences for our understanding of moral behavior and the construction of better normative theories, grounded on what people can in fact do.

Bicchieri pioneered work on counterfactuals and belief-revision in games, and the consequences of relaxing the common knowledge assumption. Her contributions include axiomatic models of players' theory of the game and the proof that -- in a large class of games -- a player's theory of the game is consistent only if the player's knowledge is limited. An important consequence of assuming bounded knowledge is that it allows for more intuitive solutions to familiar games such as the finitely repeated prisoner's dilemma or the chain-store paradox. Bicchieri has also devised mechanical procedures (algorithms) that allow players to compute solutions for games of perfect and imperfect information. Devising such procedures is particularly important for Artificial Intelligence applications, since interacting software agents have to be programmed to play a variety of 'games'. Bicchieri has been a UNICEF consultant since 2008. Her work on social norms has been adopted by UNICEF in its campaigns to eliminate practices that violate human rights. She was knighted Cavaliere Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana in 2007.

She is also a member of the advisory board at the School of Government at LUISS University of Rome, where she occasionally teaches.

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