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Big experimenter is watching you! Anonymity and prosocial behavior in the laboratory

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  • Barmettler, Franziska
  • Fehr, Ernst
  • Zehnder, Christian

Abstract

Researchers have demonstrated that the presence of people with social preferences has important economic implications. However, the empirical basis of this research relies to a large extent on experiments that do not provide anonymity between experimenter and subject. It has been argued that this lack of experimenter–subject anonymity may create selfish incentives to engage in seemingly other-regarding behavior. If this were the case, these experiments would overestimate the importance of social preferences. Previous studies provide mixed results and methodological differences within and across studies make it difficult to isolate the impact of experimenter–subject anonymity. In this paper we use a novel procedure that allows us to examine the impact of the exact same ceteris-paribus variation in anonymity on behavior in three of the most commonly used games in the social preference literature. We find that the introduction of experimenter–subject anonymity has no significant effect in any of the three games.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Games and Economic Behavior.

Volume (Year): 75 (2012)
Issue (Month): 1 ()
Pages: 17-34

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Handle: RePEc:eee:gamebe:v:75:y:2012:i:1:p:17-34

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Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/622836

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Keywords: Scrutiny; Anonymity; Laboratory experiments; Prosocial behavior;

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Cited by:
  1. Levati, M. Vittoria & Nicholas, Aaron & Rai, Birendra, 2014. "Testing the single-peakedness of other-regarding preferences," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 67(C), pages 197-209.
  2. Masahiro Shoji, 2014. "Channels of Peer Effects and Guilt Aversion in Crime: Experimental and Empirical Evidence from Bangladesh," CIRJE F-Series CIRJE-F-923, CIRJE, Faculty of Economics, University of Tokyo.
  3. Stoop, Jan, 2012. "From the lab to the field: envelopes, dictators and manners," MPRA Paper 37048, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  4. Cary Deck & Maroš Servátka & Steven Tucker, 2013. "An examination of the effect of messages on cooperation under double-blind and single-blind payoff procedures," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 16(4), pages 597-607, December.
  5. Pelligra, Vittorio & Stanca, Luca, 2013. "To give or not to give? Equity, efficiency and altruistic behavior in an artefactual field experiment," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 46(C), pages 1-9.
  6. Cary Deck & Maroš Servátka & Steven Tucker, 2011. "Do People Keep Socially Unverifiable Promises?," Working Papers in Economics 11/39, University of Canterbury, Department of Economics and Finance.
  7. Hong Lin & David Ong, 2011. "Separating Gratitude from Guilt in the Laboratory," Levine's Working Paper Archive 786969000000000309, David K. Levine.
  8. Shoji, Masahiro, 2013. "Guilt aversion and peer effects in crime: experimental and empirical evidence from Bangladesh," MPRA Paper 44746, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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