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Altruism, reciprocity and health: A social experiment in restaurant choice

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  • Keane, Christopher R.
  • Lafky, Jonathan M.
  • Board, Oliver J.
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    Abstract

    We used an experimental game to determine whether people imitate restaurant choice, reciprocate food gifts, and thus spread health choices. We randomly paired 138 subjects and recorded their decision to give or keep restaurant vouchers and their choice of restaurant. The majority (83.3%) chose an unhealthy restaurant if their randomly assigned partner chose an unhealthy restaurant. Similarly, 77.8% chose a healthy restaurant if their partner did (p=0.005). The altruistic were more likely to choose a healthy restaurant (p=0.017). In sum, restaurant choice is influenced by reciprocity. A cycle of projection, gifting and reciprocation may explain the social dynamics of food choice. We propose policies that capitalize on people’s tendency towards altruism and imitation.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Food Policy.

    Volume (Year): 37 (2012)
    Issue (Month): 2 ()
    Pages: 143-150

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:jfpoli:v:37:y:2012:i:2:p:143-150

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    Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/foodpol

    Related research

    Keywords: Altruism; Reciprocity; Restaurants; Health decisions; Trust games;

    References

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    1. Ernst Fehr & Simon Gaechter, 2000. "Fairness and Retaliation: The Economics of Reciprocity," CESifo Working Paper Series 336, CESifo Group Munich.
    2. Prendergast, Canice & Stole, Lars, 2001. "The non-monetary nature of gifts," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 45(10), pages 1793-1810, December.
    3. Mancino, Lisa & Todd, Jessica & Lin, Biing-Hwan, 2009. "Separating what we eat from where: Measuring the effect of food away from home on diet quality," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 34(6), pages 557-562, December.
    4. Stephen Toler & Brian C. Briggeman & Jayson L. Lusk & Damian C. Adams, 2009. "Fairness, Farmers Markets, and Local Production," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 91(5), pages 1272-1278.
    5. Berg Joyce & Dickhaut John & McCabe Kevin, 1995. "Trust, Reciprocity, and Social History," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 122-142, July.
    6. Carmichael, H Lorne & MacLeod, W Bentley, 1997. "Gift Giving and the Evolution of Cooperation," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 38(3), pages 485-509, August.
    7. Nicole M. Baran & Paola Sapienza & Luigi Zingales, 2010. "Can we infer social preferences from the lab? Evidence from the trust game," NBER Working Papers 15654, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Johansson-Stenman, Olof & Mahmud, Minhaj & Martinsson, Peter, 2004. "Does stake size matter in trust games?," Working Papers in Economics 140, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics.
    9. Chang, Jae Bong & Lusk, Jayson L., 2009. "Fairness and food choice," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 34(6), pages 483-491, December.
    10. Cox, James C., 2004. "How to identify trust and reciprocity," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 46(2), pages 260-281, February.
    11. James C. Cox & Cary A. Deck, 2005. "On the Nature of Reciprocal Motives," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 43(3), pages 623-635, July.
    12. Ruffle, Bradley J., 1999. "Gift giving with emotions," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 39(4), pages 399-420, July.
    13. Just, David R. & Wansink, Brian & Mancino, Lisa & Guthrie, Joanne F., 2008. "Behavioral Economic Concepts To Encourage Healthy Eating in School Cafeterias: Experiments and Lessons From College Students," Economic Research Report 56489, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
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