Erika Kirgios

Erika Kirgios
  • Doctoral Candidate

Contact Information

  • office Address:

    527.4 Jon M. Huntsman Hall
    3730 Walnut Street
    Philadelphia, PA 19104

Research Interests: race and gender inequality; diversity; behavior change; charitable giving

Links: CV


Erika L. Kirgios is a fourth-year PhD student in the Decision Processes group. Prior to her doctoral studies at Wharton, she graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University with a BA in Computer Science, and minors in Cognitive Science and Neuroscience.

Erika’s research primarily falls into two streams of work: the first centers on race and gender inequality, and the second on charitable giving and prosocial behavior. Her work on race and gender aims to elucidate why inequality persists and how it may be reduced. She focuses both on the decisions of organizational leaders and on those of underrepresented minorities. Overall, her work seeks to provide new insights about how we can encourage decision-making that reduces inequality through a dual focus on workplace diversity and prosocial behavior.



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  • Erika Kirgios, Edward Chang, Emma E. Levine, Katherine L. Milkman, Judd B. Kessler (2020), Forgoing Earned Incentives to Signal Pure Motives, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

    Abstract: Financial incentives can spark behavior change but often damage recipients’ self-image. We designed and tested an intervention that allows organizations and individuals to resolve this tension. We motivated actors with financial rewards and then gave them the opportunity to forgo those rewards to signal their past actions were intrinsically motivated. We propose that actors who forgo financial rewards engage in “motivation laundering,” passing up payments earned for an incentivized action to retroactively signal that their motivations were intrinsic. Our intervention has the potential to leave organizations and incentivized individuals better off: Financial rewards help actors build better habits, and motivation laundering allows them to boost their self-image, while giving organizations opportunities to lower incentive program costs.

  • Erika Kirgios, Edward Chang, Katherine L. Milkman (2020), Going It Alone: Competition Increases the Attractiveness of Minority Status, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.

    Abstract: Past research demonstrates that people prefer to affiliate with others who resemble them demographically. However, we posit that the strength of this tendency toward homophily may be moderated by strategic considerations when competing for scarce opportunities. Across six experiments, we find that anticipated competition weakens people’s desire to join groups that include similar others. When expecting to compete against fellow group members, women are more willing to join all-male groups and Black participants are more willing to join all-White groups than in the absence of competition. We show that this effect is mediated both by a belief that being distinct will lead your performance to stand out and by a desire to compete against demographically dissimilar others. Our findings offer a new perspective to enrich past research on homophily, shedding light on the instances when minorities are more likely to join groups in which they will be underrepresented.

  • Edward Chang, Erika Kirgios, Aneesh Rai, Katherine L. Milkman (2020), The Isolated Choice Effect and Its Implications for Gender Diversity in Organizations, Management Science.

    Abstract: We highlight a feature of personnel selection decisions that can influence the gender diversity of groups and teams. Specifically, we show that people are less likely to choose candidates whose gender would increase group diversity when making personnel selections in isolation (i.e., when they are responsible for selecting a single group member) than when making collections of choices (i.e., when they are responsible for selecting multiple group members). We call this the isolated choice effect. Across 6 preregistered experiments (n=3,509), we demonstrate that the isolated choice effect has important consequences for group diversity. When making sets of hiring and selection decisions (as opposed to making a single hire), people construct more gender-diverse groups. Mediation and moderation studies suggest that people do not attend as much to diversity when making isolated selection choices, which drives this effect.

Awards and Honors

National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, 2017-2020

Judith & William Bollinger Fellowship, 2020

Mack Institute for Innovation Management Research Grant, 2020

Marketing Science Institute Research Grant, 2020

Best Micro Paper Award, East Coast Doctoral Conference, 2019

Wharton Doctoral Programs Travel Grant, 2019

Wharton Risk Center Russell Ackoff Fellowship, 2018-2020

Marjorie Weiler Prize for Excellence in Writing, 2018

Princeton Computer Science Senior Thesis Prize, 2017

U.S. Presidential Scholar, 2013


    Latest Research

    Erika Kirgios, Edward Chang, Emma E. Levine, Katherine L. Milkman, Judd B. Kessler (2020), Forgoing Earned Incentives to Signal Pure Motives, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
    All Research