Agency and the Construction of Social Preference: Between Inequality Aversion and Prosocial Behavior
AbstractThe term “social preference” refers to decision makers’ satisfaction with their own outcomes and those attained by comparable others. The present research was inspired by what appears to be a discrepancy in the literature on social preferences – specifically, between a class of studies demonstrating people’s concern with inequality and others documenting their motivation to increase social welfare. We propose a theoretical framework to account for this puzzling difference. In particular, we argue that a characteristic of the decision setting – an individual’s role in creating the outcomes, referred to as agency – critically affects decision makers’ weighting of opposing social motives. Namely, in settings where people can merely judge the outcomes, but cannot affect them (“low agency”), their concern with inequality figures prominently. In contrast, in settings where people determine the outcomes for themselves and others (“high agency”), their concern with the welfare of others is prominent. Three studies employing a new salary-allocation paradigm document a robust effect of agency. In the high-agency condition participants had to assign salaries, while in the low-agency condition they indicated their satisfaction with equivalent predetermined salaries. We found that compared with low-agency participants, high-agency participants were less concerned with disadvantageous salary allocations and were even willing to sacrifice a portion of their pay to better others’ outcomes. The effects of agency are discussed in connection to inequality aversion, social comparison, prosocial behavior, and preference construction.
Download InfoIf you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by The Center for the Study of Rationality, Hebrew University, Jerusalem in its series Discussion Paper Series with number dp573.
Length: 14 pages
Date of creation: May 2011
Date of revision:
Publication status: Forthcoming in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:
You can help add them by filling out this form.
CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
- Shoham Choshen-Hillel & Ilan Yaniv, 2012. "Social preferences shaped by conflicting motives: When enhancing social welfare creates unfavorable comparisons for the self," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 7(5), pages 618-627, September.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Ilan Nehama).
If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.
If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.
If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.
Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.