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Big experimenter is watching you! Anonymity and prosocial behavior in the laboratory

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  • Franziska Barmettler
  • Ernst Fehr
  • Christian Zehnder

Abstract

Social preference research has received considerable attention in recent years. Researchers have demonstrated that the presence of people with other-regarding preferences can have important implications in many economic dimensions. However, it is important to be aware of the fact that the empirical basis of this literature relies to a large extent on experiments that do not provide anonymity between experimenter and subject. It has been argued that this lack of experimenter-subject anonymity may create sel sh incentives to engage in seemingly other-regarding behavior. If this were the case these experiments would overestimate the importance of social preferences. Previous studies provide mixed results and methodological di erences within and across studies make it difcult to isolate the impact of experimenter-subject anonymity on prosocial behavior. In this paper we use a novel procedure that allows us to examine the impact of the exact same ceteris-paribus variation in anonymity on behavior in three of the most commonly used games in the social preference literature. Our data reveals that introducing experimenter-subject anonymity has only minor, insigni cant, e ects on prosocial behavior.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Department of Economics - University of Zurich in its series ECON - Working Papers with number 027.

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Date of creation: Aug 2011
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Handle: RePEc:zur:econwp:027

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Keywords: Scrutiny; anonymity; laboratory experiments; prosocial behavior;

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Cited by:
  1. Jan Stoop, 2014. "From the lab to the field: envelopes, dictators and manners," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 17(2), pages 304-313, June.
  2. Hong Lin & David Ong, 2011. "Separating Gratitude from Guilt in the Laboratory," Levine's Working Paper Archive 786969000000000309, David K. Levine.
  3. Cary Deck & Maroš Servátka & Steven Tucker, 2011. "Do People Keep Socially Unverifiable Promises?," Working Papers in Economics 11/39, University of Canterbury, Department of Economics and Finance.
  4. Cary Deck & Maroš Servátka & Steven Tucker, 2013. "An examination of the effect of messages on cooperation under double-blind and single-blind payoff procedures," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 16(4), pages 597-607, December.
  5. Masahiro Shoji, 2014. "Channels of Peer Effects and Guilt Aversion in Crime: Experimental and Empirical Evidence from Bangladesh," CIRJE F-Series CIRJE-F-923, CIRJE, Faculty of Economics, University of Tokyo.
  6. Levati, M. Vittoria & Nicholas, Aaron & Rai, Birendra, 2014. "Testing the single-peakedness of other-regarding preferences," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 67(C), pages 197-209.
  7. Pelligra, Vittorio & Stanca, Luca, 2013. "To give or not to give? Equity, efficiency and altruistic behavior in an artefactual field experiment," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 46(C), pages 1-9.
  8. Shoji, Masahiro, 2013. "Guilt aversion and peer effects in crime: experimental and empirical evidence from Bangladesh," MPRA Paper 44746, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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