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Testing Theories of Fairness - Intentions Matter

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  • Armin Falk
  • Ernst Fehr
  • Urs Fischbacher

Abstract

Recently developed models of fairness can explain a wide variety of seemingly contradictory facts. The most controversial and yet unresolved issue in the modeling of fairness preferences concerns the behavioral relevance of fairness intentions. Intuitively, fairness intentions seem to play an important role in economic relations, political struggles and legal disputes. Yet, so far there is little rigorous evidence supporting this intuition. In this paper we provide clear and unambiguous experimental evidence for the behavioral relevance of fairness intentions. Our results indicate that the attribution of fairness intentions is important both in the domain of negatively reciprocal behavior and in the domain of positively reciprocal behavior. This means that reciprocal behavior cannot be fully captured by equity models that are exclusively based on preferences over the distribution of material payoffs. Models that take into account players' fairness intentions and distributional preferences are consistent with our data while models that focus exclusively on intentions or on the distribution of material payoffs are not.

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Paper provided by Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich in its series IEW - Working Papers with number 063.

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Handle: RePEc:zur:iewwpx:063

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Keywords: Fairness; reciprocity; intentions; experiments; moonlighting game;

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  1. Abbink, Klaus & Irlenbusch, Bernd & Renner, Elke, 2000. "The moonlighting game: An experimental study on reciprocity and retribution," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 42(2), pages 265-277, June.
  2. James Andreoni, 2001. "Giving According to GARP," Theory workshop papers, UCLA Department of Economics 339, UCLA Department of Economics.
  3. Jordi Brandts & Gary Charness, 1998. "Hot vs. cold: Sequential responses and preference stability in experimental games," Economics Working Papers, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra 321, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
  4. Charness, Gary & Rabin, Matthew, 2000. "Social Preferences: Some Simple Tests and a New Model," Department of Economics, Working Paper Series, Department of Economics, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley qt46j0d6hb, Department of Economics, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
  5. Gary Bolton & Jordi Brandts & Axel Ockenfels, 1998. "Measuring Motivations for the Reciprocal Responses Observed in a Simple Dilemma Game," Experimental Economics, Springer, Springer, vol. 1(3), pages 207-219, December.
  6. Gary Charness, 1996. "Attribution and reciprocity in a simulated labor market: An experimental investigation," Economics Working Papers, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra 283, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, revised Oct 1997.
  7. Blount, Sally, 1995. "When Social Outcomes Aren't Fair: The Effect of Causal Attributions on Preferences," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 63(2), pages 131-144, August.
  8. Colin F. Camerer & Richard H. Thaler, 1995. "Anomalies: Ultimatums, Dictators and Manners," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 9(2), pages 209-219, Spring.
  9. Axel Ockenfels & Gary E. Bolton, 2000. "ERC: A Theory of Equity, Reciprocity, and Competition," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 90(1), pages 166-193, March.
  10. Timothy N. Cason & Vai-Lam Mui, 1998. "Social Influence in the Sequential Dictator Game," Development Research Unit Working Paper Series, Monash University, Department of Economics archive-37, Monash University, Department of Economics.
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