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Selfish in the end? An investigation of consistency and stability of individual behaviour

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Author Info

  • Jeanette Brosig

    ()
    (Department of Economics, University of Cologne)

  • Thomas Riechmann

    ()
    (Faculty of Economics and Management, Otto-von-Guericke University Magdeburg)

  • Joachim Weimann

    ()
    (Faculty of Economics and Management, Otto-von-Guericke University Magdeburg)

Abstract

This paper puts three of the most prominent specifications of ‘other-regarding’ preferences to the experimental test, namely the theories developed by Charness and Rabin, by Fehr and Schmidt, and by Andreoni and Miller. In a series of experiments based on various dictator and prisoner’s dilemma games, we try to uncover which of these concepts, or the classical selfish approach, is able to explain most of our experimental findings. The experiments are special with regard to two aspects: First, we investigate the consistency of individual behavior within and across different classes of games. Second, we analyze the stability of individual behavior over time by running the same experiments on the same subjects at several points in time. Our results demonstrate that in the first wave of experiments, all theories of other-regarding preferences explain a high share of individual decisions. Other-regarding preferences seem to wash out over time, however. In the final wave, it is the classical theory of selfish behavior that delivers the best explanation. Stable behavior over time is observed only for subjects, who behave strictly selfish. Most subjects behave consistently with regard to at least one of the theories within the same class of games, but are much less consistent across games.

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File URL: http://www.ww.uni-magdeburg.de/fwwdeka/femm/a2007_Dateien/2007_05.pdf
File Function: First version, 2007
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Otto-von-Guericke University Magdeburg, Faculty of Economics and Management in its series FEMM Working Papers with number 07005.

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Length: 33 pages
Date of creation: Feb 2007
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:mag:wpaper:07005

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Keywords: individual preferences; consistency; stability; experimental economics;

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  1. Charness, Gary B & Rabin, Matthew, 2001. "Understanding Social Preferences With Simple Tests," University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series qt0dc3k4m5, Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara.
  2. Urs Fischbacher & Simon Gaechter, 2006. "Heterogeneous social preferences and the dynamics of free riding in public goods," Discussion Papers 2006-01, The Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics, School of Economics, University of Nottingham.
  3. Ernst Fehr & Klaus M. Schmidt, . "A Theory of Fairness, Competition and Cooperation," IEW - Working Papers 004, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  4. Mark Isaac, R. & McCue, Kenneth F. & Plott, Charles R., 1985. "Public goods provision in an experimental environment," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 26(1), pages 51-74, February.
  5. Armin Falk & Urs Fischbacher, . "A Theory of Reciprocity," IEW - Working Papers 006, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  6. Dufwenberg, M. & Kirchsteiger, G., 1998. "A Theory of Sequential Reciprocity," Discussion Paper 1998-37, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
  7. Blanco, Mariana & Engelmann, Dirk & Normann, Hans Theo, 2011. "A within-subject analysis of other-regarding preferences," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 72(2), pages 321-338, June.
  8. Gary E Bolton & Axel Ockenfels, 1997. "A Theory of Equity, Reciprocity, and Competition," Levine's Working Paper Archive 1889, David K. Levine.
  9. Forsythe Robert & Horowitz Joel L. & Savin N. E. & Sefton Martin, 1994. "Fairness in Simple Bargaining Experiments," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 6(3), pages 347-369, May.
  10. 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.
  11. Kahneman, Daniel & Knetsch, Jack L & Thaler, Richard H, 1986. "Fairness and the Assumptions of Economics," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 59(4), pages S285-300, October.
  12. 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.
  13. Andreoni,J. & Castillo,M. & Petrie,R., 2000. "What do bargainers' preferences look like? : exploring a convex ultimatum game," Working papers 25, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
  14. Geanakoplos, John & Pearce, David & Stacchetti, Ennio, 1989. "Psychological games and sequential rationality," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 1(1), pages 60-79, March.
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