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Responsibility And Effort In An Experimental Labor Market

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  • Charness, Gary B

Abstract

Previous indirect evidence suggests that impulses towards pro-social behavior are diminished when an external authority is responsible for an outcome. The responsibility-alleviation effect states that a shift of responsibility to an external authority dampens internal impulses toward honesty, loyalty, or generosity. In a gift-exchange experiment, we find that subjects respond with more generosity (higher effort) when wages are determined by a random process than when assigned by a third party, indicating that even a slight shift in perceived responsibility for the final payoffs can change behavior. Responsibility-alleviation can be a factor in economic environments featuring substantial personal interaction.

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Paper provided by Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara in its series University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series with number qt7x98w91h.

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Date of creation: 01 Jul 1999
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Handle: RePEc:cdl:ucsbec:qt7x98w91h

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Keywords: Responsibility; social behavior; experiment; generosity;

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  1. Fehr, Ernst, et al, 1998. "When Social Norms Overpower Competition: Gift Exchange in Experimental Labor Markets," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 16(2), pages 324-51, April.
  2. Kahneman, Daniel & Knetsch, Jack L & Thaler, Richard, 1986. "Fairness as a Constraint on Profit Seeking: Entitlements in the Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 76(4), pages 728-41, September.
  3. Currie, Janet & McConnell, Sheena, 1991. "Collective Bargaining in the Public Sector: The Effect of Legal Structure on Dispute Costs and Wages," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 81(4), pages 693-718, September.
  4. Hoffman, Elizabeth & McCabe, Kevin & Smith, Vernon L, 1996. "Social Distance and Other-Regarding Behavior in Dictator Games," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 86(3), pages 653-60, June.
  5. Fehr, Ernst & Kirchsteiger, George & Riedl, Arno, 1993. "Does Fairness Prevent Market Clearing? An Experimental Investigation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, MIT Press, vol. 108(2), pages 437-59, May.
  6. Frey, Bruno S, 1993. "Does Monitoring Increase Work Effort? The Rivalry with Trust and Loyalty," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, Western Economic Association International, vol. 31(4), pages 663-70, October.
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