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Modeling Social Preferences: A Generalized Model of Inequity Aversion

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  • Hayat Khan

Abstract

Taking note of the wide variety and growing list of models in the literature to explain patterns of behavior observed in laboratory experiments, this paper identifies two tests, the Variety Test (ability of a model to explain outcomes under variety or alternative scenarios) and the Psychological Test (ability of a model to conform to psychological intuition), that can be used to judge any model of other-regarding behavior. It is argued that for a mathematical model to qualify as a social welfare function, it must simultaneously pass the two tests. It is shown that none of the models proposed to date passes these two tests simultaneously. The paper proposes a generalized model of inequity aversion which parsimoniously explains interior solution in the dictator game and dynamics of outcomes in other games. The paper postulates that one’s idea of equitable distribution is state-dependent, where the state is determined by psychological and structural parameters. The state could be fair, superior or inferior. Individuals in a fair state have zero equity-bias and split the pie evenly. Those in a superior (inferior) state have positive (negative) equity-bias and value more (less) than fair distribution as equitable distribution. Given psychological tendencies of an individual, every experimental design/structure assigns one of the three states to players which lead to individual-specific valuation of equity. Prediction about outcomes across different experiments and designs can be made through predicting their impact on equity-bias. All aspects of an individual’s behavior, such as altruism, fairness, reciprocity, self-serving bias, kindness, intentions etc, manifest themselves in the equity-bias. The model therefore is all-encompassing.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Economics and Econometrics Research Institute (EERI), Brussels in its series EERI Research Paper Series with number EERI_RP_2009_21.

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Length: 45 pages
Date of creation: 09 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:eei:rpaper:eeri_rp_2009_21

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Keywords: Experimental Economics; Social Preferences; Other-regarding Preferences; Inequity aversion.;

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  1. Fehr, Ernst & Schmidt, Klaus M., 1999. "A theory of fairness, competition, and cooperation," Munich Reprints in Economics 20650, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  2. 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.
  3. James Cox & Daniel Friedman & Steven Gjerstad, 2004. "A Tractable Model of Reciprocity and Fairness," Experimental 0406001, EconWPA.
  4. Kagel, John H. & Kim, Chung & Moser, Donald, 1996. "Fairness in Ultimatum Games with Asymmetric Information and Asymmetric Payoffs," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 13(1), pages 100-110, March.
  5. Erlei, Mathias, 2008. "Heterogeneous social preferences," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 65(3-4), pages 436-457, March.
  6. Bereby-Meyer, Yoella & Niederle, Muriel, 2005. "Fairness in bargaining," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 56(2), pages 173-186, February.
  7. Margin Dufwenberg & Georg Kirchsteiger, 2001. "A Theory of Sequential Reciprocity," Levine's Working Paper Archive 563824000000000090, David K. Levine.
  8. Hoffman, Elizabeth & McCabe, Kevin & Smith, Vernon L, 1996. "Social Distance and Other-Regarding Behavior in Dictator Games," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(3), pages 653-60, June.
  9. Schotter, Andrew & Weiss, Avi & Zapater, Inigo, 1996. "Fairness and survival in ultimatum and dictatorship games," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 37-56, October.
  10. John Kagel & Katherine Wolfe, 2001. "Tests of Fairness Models Based on Equity Considerations in a Three-Person Ultimatum Game," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 4(3), pages 203-219, December.
  11. Colin F. Camerer & Richard H. Thaler, 1995. "Anomalies: Ultimatums, Dictators and Manners," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 9(2), pages 209-219, Spring.
  12. Gary E. Bolton & Rami Zwick & Elena Katok, 1998. "Dictator game giving: Rules of fairness versus acts of kindness," International Journal of Game Theory, Springer, vol. 27(2), pages 269-299.
  13. Armin Falk & Urs Fischbacher, 2001. "A Theory of Reciprocity," CESifo Working Paper Series 457, CESifo Group Munich.
  14. Bolton Gary E. & Zwick Rami, 1995. "Anonymity versus Punishment in Ultimatum Bargaining," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 95-121, July.
  15. Ottone, Stefania & Ponzano, Ferruccio, 2005. "An Extension to the Model of Inequity Aversion by Fehr and Schmidt," POLIS Working Papers 51, Institute of Public Policy and Public Choice - POLIS.
  16. Matthew Rabin., 1992. "Incorporating Fairness into Game Theory and Economics," Economics Working Papers 92-199, University of California at Berkeley.
  17. Hoffman Elizabeth & McCabe Kevin & Shachat Keith & Smith Vernon, 1994. "Preferences, Property Rights, and Anonymity in Bargaining Games," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 7(3), pages 346-380, November.
  18. Offerman, Theo, 2002. "Hurting hurts more than helping helps," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 46(8), pages 1423-1437, September.
  19. Axel Ockenfels & Gary E. Bolton, 2000. "ERC: A Theory of Equity, Reciprocity, and Competition," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(1), pages 166-193, March.
  20. Nicholas Bardsley, 2005. "Altruism or Artefact? A Note on Dictator Game Giving," Discussion Papers 2005-10, The Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics, School of Economics, University of Nottingham.
  21. Theo Offerman, 1999. "Hurting hurts more than Helping helps: The Role of the Self-serving Bias," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 99-018/1, Tinbergen Institute.
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