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Private and Public Decisions in Social Dilemmas: Evidence from ChildrenÕs Behavior

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Author Info

  • Daniel Houser

    ()
    (Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science and Department of Economics, George Mason University)

  • Natalia Montinari

    ()
    (Max Planck Institute for Economics)

  • Marco Piovesan

    ()
    (Harvard Business School)

Abstract

Substantial research with adult populations has found that selfish impulses are less likely to be pursued when decisions are publicly observable. To the best of our knowledge, however, this behavioral regularity has not been systematically explored as potential solution to social dilemmas. This paper takes a step in that direction. We report data on the self-control decisions of children aged 6 to 11 who participated in games that require one to resist a selfish impulse for several minutes in order to benefit others. In one condition children make decisions in public view of the group of other participants, while in another they can make decisions either publicly or privately. In both conditions, we allow the group size to vary. We find that children aged 9 and higher are better able to resist selfish impulses in public environments. Younger children, however, display no such effect. Further, we find self-control substantially impacted by group size. When decisions are public, larger groups lead to better self-control, while in the private condition the opposite holds. Our findings suggest that announcing decisions publicly and to large groups may be part of a solution to some social dilemmas. In addition, the fact that public decision-making promotes pro-social behavior only in older children suggests this positive effect may stem from a desire to avoid shame. Length: 28

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by George Mason University, Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science in its series Working Papers with number 1034.

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Date of creation: Feb 2012
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:gms:wpaper:1034

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Keywords: Experimental Economics;

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References

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  1. Xiao, Erte & Houser, Daniel, 2011. "Punish in public," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(7), pages 1006-1017.
  2. William T. Harbaugh & Kate Krause & Steven G. Liday, 2002. "Bargaining by Children," University of Oregon Economics Department Working Papers 2002-04, University of Oregon Economics Department, revised 20 Jul 2002.
  3. Alessandro Bucciol & Daniel Houser & Marco Piovesan, 2010. "Willpower in children and adults: a survey of results and economic implications," International Review of Economics, Springer, vol. 57(3), pages 259-267, September.
  4. repec:feb:artefa:0046 is not listed on IDEAS
  5. Peter Martinsson & Kristian Ove R. Myrseth & Conny Wollbrant, 2010. "Cooperation in social dilemmas: The necessity of seeing self-control conflict," ESMT Research Working Papers ESMT-10-004 (R1), ESMT European School of Management and Technology, revised 16 Nov 2012.
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Cited by:
  1. Ernst Fehr & Daniela Rützler & Matthias Sutter, 2011. "The Development of Egalitarianism, Altruism, Spite and Parochialism in Childhood and Adolescence," CESifo Working Paper Series 3361, CESifo Group Munich.

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