Royal Economic Society
Rather than explicitly revealing information about the quality of their products and services, many firms prefer to signal quality through the prices they charge, typically working on the assumption that a high price indicates high quality. New research by Maarten Janssen and Santanu Roy provides a new explanation for why firms choose not to disclose quality directly – and explains how prices that are set to signal quality can distort actual buying decisions.
Their study, which is published in the February 2015 issue of the Economic Journal, shows that when firms compete on price, not disclosing product quality voluntarily can soften competition and boost profits. This has an important policy implication for regulators: even if consumers infer all relevant product information from prices (or other actions by firms), there may be a case for imposing mandatory disclosure regulation. Such regulation can reduce market power and the price and consumption distortions resulting from firms’ use of prices to signal product quality.
The researchers begin by noting that in a large number of markets, ranging from educational and health services to consumer goods and financial assets, sellers have important information about the quality of their products. Quality attributes include satisfaction from consuming the product, durability, safety and potential health hazards as well as ethical and environmental attributes. READ MORE
Originally Posted: Feb. 8, 2015
The Foreign Policy Essay: Hidden Victories
By Joshua Rovner
Editor’s Note: U.S. foreign policy is a disaster. This lament is heard about every administration, but rarely is it true. Joshua Rovner, a professor at Southern Methodist University, points out that the judgment of history is often kinder than the critics of the day. Failures seem to abound, but in reality most presidents have numerous foreign policy successes that have kept America in a strong position. The greater danger, he writes, is failing to recognize what has worked in the first place.
President Obama fails all the time. That is the verdict of the op-ed pages, at least. His foreign policy is a muddle. His decisions to exit from Afghanistan and Iraq were disastrously premature. His responses to terrorism, Syria, Iran, and Russia revealed weakness. His response to the rise of China is a massive failure based on wishful thinking. America’s standing in the world is in steep decline because of all these errors.
Of course, the situation was no better in the last administration. Our summary judgment about President Bush is more or less summarized in the titles of two popular books from the time: Hubris and Fiasco. Our summary judgment of President Clinton was that he lacked any conception of grand strategy, concentrated on domestic policy at the expense of foreign affairs, and otherwise took a “holiday from history.” And we can go back much further. Indeed, read the news from any era and you may get the feeling that the United States is incapable of coherent foreign policy, that it is devoid of serious strategic thinkers, and that its whole history is a depressing catalog of blunders. Yet somehow we ended up as the world’s most prosperous and powerful country.
To be clear, the United States is certainly capable of blunders. Americans frequently misunderstand foreign crises but plow into them nonetheless. They are also capable of nationalist back-slapping and heroic myth-making that obscure the limits of American power. And sometimes they throw good money after bad in foolhardy attempts to rescue ill-conceived policies. We should not ignore these errors, however tragic and demoralizing. Exploring the causes and consequences of strategic failure is a necessary antidote to hubris. READ MORE
Originally Posted Feb. 6, 2015
(DALLAS) — A study conducted at Southern Methodist University found that the string of earthquakes felt near Irving, Texas in January were caused by a narrow fault line extending from Irving into West Dallas.
The preliminary study was initiated after at least one earthquake was felt in the area in April 2014.
The researchers had installed their first local monitors in Irving days before at least 10 tremors were felt in a two-day span on January 6 and 7. Most of the quakes felt during that time were small — the largest was measured at magnitude 3.6 on the Richter scale.
“Now that we know the fault’s location and depth,” SMU seismologist Brian Stump said in a statement, “we can begin studying how this fault moves — both the amount and direction of motion.”
The researchers hope to be able to determine what triggered the quakes.
(PRWEB) February 09, 2015
Davis, California, USA: The Geothermal Resources Council (GRC) has announced the election of Maria Richards as President-Elect. She will become the 26th President of the global geothermal energy organization in January 2017 after the term of current President Paul Brophy ends.
Maria Richards is the Southern Methodist University (SMU) Geothermal Laboratory Coordinator in the Roy M. Huffington Department of Earth Sciences in Dallas, Texas. Her research is on geothermal resources and energy development. She has been involved in numerous projects varying from computer generated temperature‐depth maps for Google.org, to on‐site geothermal exploration of volcanoes on the Northern Mariana Islands.
The use of oil/gas fields for geothermal energy production is her main focus. As part of this research, she coordinates the SMU Conference, Geothermal Energy in Oil and Gas Fields, along with working with technology companies and the oil and gas industry.
Maria and her colleagues most recently completed a new higher resolution shallow Enhanced Geothermal System (EGS) potential analysis for the Cascades region of the U.S. Pacific North-West for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Other past projects include the SMU Node of the National Geothermal Data System funded by the Department of Energy, the Eastern Texas Geothermal Assessment, the Geothermal Map of North America, a Dixie Valley Synthesis, and the resource assessment for the influential MIT Report on the Future of Geothermal Energy.
Maria has previously served on the Geothermal Resources Council Board of Directors and was chair of the Outreach Committee in 2011‐12. She is also a Named Director of the 2015 Board for the Texas Renewable Energy Industries Association (TREIA). Maria holds a Master of Science degree in Physical Geography from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and a BS in Environmental Geography from Michigan State University. READ MORE
Dallas Morning News
Originally Posted: Feb. 6, 2015
Dallas’ Ebola outbreak may have ended last fall, but the scientific exploration of what happened here has only begun, especially among medical anthropologists.
In a two-hour discussion Friday at Southern Methodist University, three such experts sorted through how the crisis evolved, how people responded and the language they used to describe what happened.
It was an “an epidemic of misunderstanding,” the three speakers agreed, and the problems started in West Africa, where the Ebola epidemic began in 2013.
Adia Benton, an assistant professor of anthropology at Brown University, cited key words that made the disease more frightening than it should have been. For example, the World Health Organization decided to call it “Ebola hemorrhagic disease,” which focused on its explosive symptoms rather than its cause.
It allowed people to fixate on “projectile vomiting, diarrhea and blood coming out of eyeballs,” she said. “The first time WHO referred to it as ‘Ebola virus disease,’ it affected how we think about it, and it wasn’t as scary.”
Doug Henry, associate professor of anthropology at the University of North Texas, recalled the “emotional epidemic” that struck Dallas when Liberian national Thomas Eric Duncan was diagnosed with Ebola in September. Tensions abated only after the national election in November, he said.
“I was troubled by how the media and politicians exploited the situation,” Henry said, describing endless news coverage and constant political pressure to ban flights from West Africa. He also cited attempts to detain health care volunteers as they returned from fighting the disease.
“The forced quarantine of health care workers makes the epidemic worse and more likely to spread to us,” he said.
Carolyn Smith-Morris, associate professor and director of SMU’s health and society program, said she jumped into the fray when Ebola showed up in Dallas. She sent her students door to door to talk to Dallas residents about how they felt as the outbreak unfolded.
“It’s very rare that we get to see what the beginning of an epidemic looks like,” she said. “There were lessons to be learned about stigma, prejudice and fear.”
Dallas’ outbreak never reached epidemic proportions, “although the media coverage tried to convince us it did,” Smith-Morris said. Epidemics require a higher rate of disease followed by a massive effort to stop it, she said.
Although more than 100 people were quarantined in Dallas, only three Ebola cases were diagnosed: in Duncan and two of his hospital caretakers.
Still, the local outbreak remained stuck in a “crisis phase,” Smith-Morris said, because public confusion and anxiety continued for weeks. “There were pieces of information we did not have,” she said of the government’s educational response.
The three experts pondered whether Duncan might have been a victim of racism, considering that his Ebola diagnosis and treatment were delayed for several days.
Benton, who is black, said many things could have influenced Duncan’s treatment, including his immigrant status, lack of health insurance and heavy foreign accent. Doctors also didn’t expect Ebola to show up in their emergency room.
Duncan died, while the two Ebola-infected nurses survived.
Benton said it’s hard for many African-Americans to reconcile how Duncan was treated. “Everyone knows a delayed response is more likely to kill someone,” she said.
Smith-Morris said she couldn’t conclude that prejudice alone was responsible.
“Racism may have a place,” she said, “but I don’t think it explains Duncan’s death.”
Posted: Feb. 6, 2015
For State’s Seismologist, Quakes Will Be the Easy Part
by Jim Malewitz
David Craig Pearson remembers the first time he felt the earth tremble beneath his feet. Mother Nature wasn’t to blame. The U.S. military was.
Pearson stood on the White Sands Missile Range, a sprawling base in south-central New Mexico, on that day some three decades ago. Federal Department of Defense workers fired off a weapons test. Pearson, then a wide-eyed doctoral student, recorded the earthquake it triggered.
“Since then, I was hooked,” he said in an interview. READ MORE
SMU Adventures Blog
Twelve students in SMU’s Student Leadership Initiative (SLI), sponsored by the Embrey Human Rights Program, participated in a service-learning trip to Costa Rica Jan. 2-12, 2015. The SLI students were led by Dr. Howard J. Recinos, Professor of Church and Society at SMU Perkins School of Theology, and Dr. Joci Caldwell Ryan, a lecturer in the women’s and gender studies program of SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences. READ MORE
Originally Posted: Feb. 3, 2015
by Carla Clark, PhD
HOT: Virtual Reality used to Reduce Sexual Victimization of Teenage Girls
Who: Research team of Psychology Professors from Southern Methodist University, Dallas.
Where: In press in the journal Behavior Therapy from the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies.
Why: Females who firmly resist unwanted advances stand a greater chance of escaping a sexually coercive situation, from which there are numerous immediate and long-term deleterious effects.
After completion of “My Voice, My Choice” virtual reality resistance training, girls in the study that had had higher rates of previous victimization experienced lower rates of psychological distress and psychological victimization, e.g. being yelled at or called names, or having a boy try to frighten or spread rumors about her.
“This finding is particularly noteworthy because other violence protection programs have generally been ineffective or less effective for previously victimized young women,” said Simpson Rowe, lead author of the study and Associate Professor and Graduate Program Co-Director of Psychology at SMU. READ MORE