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, Personal Website


Erika L. Kirgios is a fifth-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.



Continue Reading


  • Erika Kirgios, Edward Chang, Katy Milkman, Aneesh Rai (2022), When seeking help, women and racial/ethnic minorities benefit from explicitly stating their identity, Nature Human Behaviour.

    Abstract: Receiving help can make or break a career, but women and racial/ethnic minorities do not always receive the support they seek. Across two audit experiments—one with politicians and another with students—as well as an online experiment (total n= 5,145), we test whether women and racial/ethnic minorities benefit from explicitly mentioning their demographic identity in requests for help, for example, by including statements like “As a Black woman…” in their communications. We propose that when a help seeker highlights their marginalized identity, it may activate prospective helpers’ motivations to avoid prejudiced reactions and increase their willingness to provide support. Here we show that when women and racial/ethnic minorities explicitly mentioned their demographic identity in help-seeking emails, politicians and students responded 24.4% (7.42 percentage points) and 79.6% (2.73 percentage points) more often, respectively. These findings suggest that deliberately mentioning identity in requests for help can improve outcomes for women and racial/ethnic minorities.

  • Edward Chang, Erika Kirgios, Rosanna Smith (2021), Large-scale field experiment shows null effects of team demographic diversity on outsiders’ willingness to support the team,.

    Abstract: Demographic diversity in the United States is rising, and increasingly, work is conducted in teams. These co-occurring phenomena suggest that it might be increasingly common for work to be conducted by demographically diverse teams. But to date, in spite of copious field experimental evidence documenting that individuals are treated differently based on their demographic identity, we have little evidence from field experiments to establish how and whether teams are treated differently based on their levels of demographic diversity. To answer this question, we present the results of a preregistered, large-scale (n=9496) field experiment testing whether team demographic diversity affects outsiders' responses to the team. Participants were asked via email to donate money to support the work of a team that was described and depicted as demographically diverse, or not. Even though the study was well-powered to detect even small effects (i.e., differences of less than 1.5 percentage points in donation rates), we found no significant differences in people's willingness to donate to a more diverse versus a less diverse team. We also did not find moderation by participant gender, racial diversity of the participant's zip code, or political leaning of the participant's zip code, suggesting that the lack of a main effect is not due to competing mechanisms cancelling out a main effect. These results suggest past research on the effects of demographic diversity on team support may not generalize to the field, highlighting the need for additional field experimental research on people's responses to demographically diverse teams.

  • Erika Kirgios, Graelin Mandel, Yeji Park, Katherine L. Milkman, Dena Gromet, Joseph S. Kay, Angela Duckworth (2020), Teaching temptation bundling to boost exercise: A field experiment, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.

    Abstract: Temptation bundling—pairing a pleasurable indulgence with a behavior that provides delayed rewards—combats present bias by making behaviors with delayed benefits more instantly-gratifying. If people are sophisticated and capable of following self-set rules to overcome present bias, they could benefit from learning about temptation bundling. Participants in a four-week exercise-boosting program (N = 6792) received either an audiobook with encouragement to temptation bundle, only an audiobook, or neither an audiobook nor encouragement to temptation bundle. Giving participants audiobooks and encouraging temptation bundling boosted their likelihood of a weekly workout by 10–14% and average weekly workouts by 10–12% during and up to seventeen weeks post-intervention. Relative to giving audiobooks alone, encouraging temptation bundling had a modest positive effect on exercise on the extensive margin. The marginal benefit of encouraging temptation bundling may be small because free audiobooks leak information: Simply providing an audiobook to exercise program participants suggests they should temptation bundle.

  • 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

Paul R. Kleindorfer Scholar Award, 2021

Wharton Leadership Center Grant, 2021

National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, 2017-2020

Judith & William Bollinger Fellowship, 2020

Mack Institute for Innovation Management Research Grant, 2020, 2021

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