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Social Preferences in the Lab: A Comparison of Students and a Representative Population

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  • Alexander W. Cappelen
  • Knut Nygaard
  • Erik Ø. Sørensen
  • Bertil Tungodden

Abstract

Can lab experiments on student populations serve to identify the motivational forces present in society at large? We address this question by conducting, to our knowledge, the first study of social preferences that brings a nationally representative population into the lab, and we compare their behavior to the behavior of different student populations. Our study shows that students may not be informative of the role of social preferences in the broader population. We find that the representative participants differ fundamentally from students both in their level of selfishness and in the relative importance assigned to different moral motives. It is also interesting to note that while we do not find any substantial gender differences among the students, males and females in the representative group differ fundamentally in their moral motivation.

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File URL: http://www.cesifo-group.de/portal/page/portal/DocBase_Content/WP/WP-CESifo_Working_Papers/wp-cesifo-2011/wp-cesifo-2011-07/cesifo1_wp3511.pdf
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 3511.

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Date of creation: 2011
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Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_3511

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Related research

Keywords: social preferences; representative population; dictator game; trust game;

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References

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  1. Steven D. Levitt & John A. List, 2007. "What Do Laboratory Experiments Measuring Social Preferences Reveal About the Real World?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(2), pages 153-174, Spring.
  2. Joseph Henrich & Steve J. Heine & Ara Norenzayan, 2010. "The Weirdest People in the World?," Working Paper Series of the German Council for Social and Economic Data 139, German Council for Social and Economic Data (RatSWD).
  3. Martinsson, Peter & Nordblom, Katarina & Rützler, Daniela & Sutter, Matthias, 2011. "Social preferences during childhood and the role of gender and age -- An experiment in Austria and Sweden," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 110(3), pages 248-251, March.
  4. Falk, Armin & Heckman, James J, 2010. "Lab Experiments are a Major Source of Knowledge in the Social Sciences," CEPR Discussion Papers 7620, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  5. Joseph Henrich & Robert Boyd & Samuel Bowles & Colin Camerer & Herbert Gintis & Richard McElreath & Ernst Fehr, 2001. "In search of homo economicus: Experiments in 15 small-scale societies," Artefactual Field Experiments 00068, The Field Experiments Website.
  6. Ernst Fehr & Michael Naef & Klaus M. Schmidt, 2006. "Inequality Aversion, Efficiency, and Maximin Preferences in Simple Distribution Experiments: Comment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(5), pages 1912-1917, December.
  7. Raymond Fisman & Shachar Kariv & Daniel Markovits, 2007. "Individual Preferences for Giving," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(5), pages 1858-1876, December.
  8. Simon Gächter, 2010. "(Dis)advantages of student subjects: what is your research question?," Working Paper Series of the German Council for Social and Economic Data 141, German Council for Social and Economic Data (RatSWD).
  9. Charness, Gary & Rabin, Matthew, 2002. "Understanding Social Preferences with Simple Tests," Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt3d04q5sm, Department of Economics, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
  10. Bellemare, C. & Kroger, S. & Soest, A.H.O. van, 2008. "Measuring inequity aversion in a heterogeneous population using experimental decisions and subjective probabilities," Open Access publications from Tilburg University urn:nbn:nl:ui:12-376716, Tilburg University.
  11. Falk, Armin & Meier, Stephan & Zehnder, Christian, 2010. "Did We Overestimate the Role of Social Preferences? The Case of Self-Selected Student Samples," CEPR Discussion Papers 8019, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  12. Martin Dufwenberg & Paul Heidhues & Georg Kirchsteiger & Frank Riedel & Joel Sobel, 2011. "Other-Regarding Preferences in General Equilibrium," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/149598, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  13. Dirk Engelmann & Martin Strobel, 2006. "Inequality Aversion, Efficiency, and Maximin Preferences in Simple Distribution Experiments: Reply," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(5), pages 1918-1923, December.
  14. James Konow, 2000. "Fair Shares: Accountability and Cognitive Dissonance in Allocation Decisions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(4), pages 1072-1091, September.
  15. Engelmann,Dirk & Strobel,Martin, 2002. "Inequality Aversion, Efficiency, and Maximin Preferences in Simple Distribution Experiments," Research Memorandum 015, Maastricht University, Maastricht Economic Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (MERIT).
  16. Ernst Fehr & John A. List, 2004. "The Hidden Costs and Returns of Incentives-Trust and Trustworthiness Among CEOs," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 2(5), pages 743-771, 09.
  17. Nava Ashraf & Iris Bohnet & Nikita Piankov, 2006. "Decomposing trust and trustworthiness," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 9(3), pages 193-208, September.
  18. Alexander W. Cappelen & Astri Drange Hole & Erik Ø Sørensen & Bertil Tungodden, 2007. "The Pluralism of Fairness Ideals: An Experimental Approach," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(3), pages 818-827, June.
  19. Joseph Henrich, 2001. "In Search of Homo Economicus: Behavioral Experiments in 15 Small-Scale Societies," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(2), pages 73-78, May.
  20. James Andreoni & John Miller, 2002. "Giving According to GARP: An Experimental Test of the Consistency of Preferences for Altruism," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(2), pages 737-753, March.
  21. Gary E. Bolton & Axel Ockenfels, 2006. "Inequality Aversion, Efficiency, and Maximin Preferences in Simple Distribution Experiments: Comment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(5), pages 1906-1911, December.
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Cited by:
  1. Tonin, Mirco & Vlassopoulos, Michael, 2012. "Social Incentives Matter: Evidence from an Online Real Effort Experiment," AICCON Working Papers 112-2012, Associazione Italiana per la Cultura della Cooperazione e del Non Profit.
  2. Ahrens, Steffen & Snower, Dennis J., 2012. "Envy, Guilt, and the Phillips Curve," IZA Discussion Papers 6302, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

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