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Reconciling pro-social vs. selfish behavior: On the role of self-control

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Author Info

  • Peter Martinsson
  • Kristian Ove R. Myrseth
  • Conny Wollbrant

Abstract

We test in the context of a dictator game the proposition that individuals may experience a self-control conflict between the temptation to act selfishly and the better judgment to act pro-socially. We manipulated the likelihood that individuals would identify self-control conflict, and we measured their trait ability to implement self-control strategies. Our analysis reveals a positive and significant correlation between trait self-control and pro-social behavior in the treatment where we expected a relatively high likelihood of conflict identification---but not in the treatment where we expected a low likelihood. The magnitude of the effect is of economic significance. We conclude that subtle cues might prove sufficient to alter individuals' perception of allocation opportunities, thereby prompting individuals to draw on their own cognitive resources to act pro-socially.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Society for Judgment and Decision Making in its journal Judgment and Decision Making.

Volume (Year): 7 (2012)
Issue (Month): 3 (May)
Pages: 304-315

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Handle: RePEc:jdm:journl:v:7:y:2012:i:3:p:304-315

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Related research

Keywords: self-control; pro-social behavior; altruism; dictator game.;

References

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  1. Roland Bénabou & Jean Tirole, 2011. "Identity, Morals, and Taboos: Beliefs as Assets," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(2), pages 805-855.
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  5. Hauge, Karen Evelyn & Brekke, Kjell Arne & Johansson, Lars-Olof & Johansson-Stenman, Olof & Svedsäter, Henrik, 2009. "Are Social Preferences Skin Deep? Dictators under Cognitive Load," Working Papers in Economics 371, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics.
  6. H. M. Shefrin & Richard Thaler, 1977. "An Economic Theory of Self-Control," NBER Working Papers 0208, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Myrseth, Kristian Ove R. & Wollbrant, Conny, 2011. "Naïve and Capricious: Stumbling into the ring of self-control conflict," Working Papers in Economics 515, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics.
  8. Dan Ariely & Anat Bracha & Stephan Meier, 2009. "Doing Good or Doing Well? Image Motivation and Monetary Incentives in Behaving Prosocially," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(1), pages 544-55, March.
  9. Marco Piovesan & Erik Wengström, 2008. "Fast or Fair? A Study of Response Times," Discussion Papers 08-09, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
  10. Ariel Rubinstein, 2006. "Instinctive and Cognitive Reasoning: A Study of Response Times," Working Papers 2006.36, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
  11. Duffy, Sean & Smith, John, 2011. "Cognitive load in the multi-player prisoner's dilemma game," MPRA Paper 30856, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  12. Anthony M. Evans & Kyle D. Dillon & Gideon Goldin & Joachim I. Krueger, 2011. "Trust and self-control: The moderating role of the default," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 6(7), pages 697-705, October.
  13. Laibson, David, 1997. "Golden Eggs and Hyperbolic Discounting," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(2), pages 443-77, May.
  14. Burger, Nicholas & Charness, Gary & Lynham, John, 2011. "Field and online experiments on self-control," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 77(3), pages 393-404, March.
  15. Burks, Stephen V. & Carpenter, Jeffrey P. & Götte, Lorenz & Rustichini, Aldo, 2008. "Cognitive Skills Explain Economic Preferences, Strategic Behavior, and Job Attachment," IZA Discussion Papers 3609, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  16. Eckel, Catherine C. & Grossman, Philip J., 1996. "Altruism in Anonymous Dictator Games," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 16(2), pages 181-191, October.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Myrseth, Kristian Ove R. & Riener, Gerhard & Wollbrant, Conny, 2013. "Tangible Temptation in the Social Dilemma: Cash, cooperation, and self-control," Working Papers in Economics 567, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics.
  2. Martin G. Kocher & Peter Martinsson & Kristian Ove R. Myrseth & Conny Wollbrant, 2013. "Strong, Bold, and Kind: Self-Control and Cooperation in Social Dilemmas," CESifo Working Paper Series 4200, CESifo Group Munich.
  3. Knutsson, Mikael & Martinsson, Peter & Wollbrant, Conny, 2013. "Do people avoid opportunities to donate?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 93(C), pages 71-77.
  4. Stephen Knowles & Maroš Servátka, 2014. "Transaction Costs, the Opportunity Cost of Time and Inertia in Charitable Giving," Working Papers in Economics 14/05, University of Canterbury, Department of Economics and Finance.
  5. Guzmán, Andrea & Villegas-Palacio, Clara & Wollbrant, Conny, 2013. "Social Information and Charitable Giving: An artefactual field experiment with young children and adolescents," Working Papers in Economics 564, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics, revised 14 Jan 2014.
  6. Martin Dufwenberg & Maroš Servátka & Radovan Vadovič, 2012. "ABC on Deals," Working Papers in Economics 12/14, University of Canterbury, Department of Economics and Finance.

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