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Zhang, Nan

Senior Research Fellow

Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods, Germany


United States

Max Weber alumnus

Department of Political and Social Sciences

Cohort(s): 2014/2015, 2015/2016

Ph.D. Institution

Stanford University, United States


I am a political scientist with a research focus in comparative politics and political behaviour. My work leverages both laboratory and natural experiments in combination with public opinion data to study the relationship between government performance and public attitudes and behaviour.
In brief, I try to understand how some societies manage to achieve and sustain the civic ‘good life’ – i.e. people pay their taxes, few individuals offer or demand bribes, citizens trust their compatriots to be honest and law abiding – while other societies are mired in corruption and political malfunction. I believe that in order to explain this variation, we must examine the interaction between institutions, public policies and social norms.
Take the example of tax evasion: we know that civic or ‘prosocial’ behaviour in this area cannot often be explained by material incentives alone, but rather reflects prevailing normative beliefs and intrinsic motivations to ‘do the right thing.’ Using a variety of empirical methods, including laboratory and natural experiments, I try to understand the role of political actors and institutions (i.e., the state) in shaping citizens' normative values and beliefs.
Prior to joining the EUI, I completed a PhD in Political Science (2014) from Stanford University. I also hold a J.D. (2011) from Stanford Law School, and a BA in Economics and Political Science (2006) from the University of California, Berkeley.
Fields of expertise: Corruption, Social Norms, Quantitative Methodology, Behavioural Experiments
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