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Risk versus social preferences under the veil of ignorance

  • Frignani, Nicola
  • Ponti, Giovanni

This paper reports experimental evidence from Dictator Game experiments in which subjects choose repeatedly one out of four options involving a pair of monetary prizes, one for them, one for another anonymously matched participant. In some sessions, there is no uncertainty about the player position (i.e., the identity of the best paid agent, constant across all options); in other sessions subjects choose “under the veil of ignorance”, not knowing in advance to which player position they will be eventually assigned, but only that either possibility is equally likely. Finally, we also collect evidence from additional sessions in which the same options correspond to binary lotteries, in which subjects may win the high or the low prize with equal probability, but their decisions do not affect other participants. We frame subjects’ decisions within the realm of a simple mean-variance utility maximization problem, in which the parameter associated to the variance is interpreted, depending on the treatment, as a measure of pure risk aversion, pure inequality aversion, or some combination of the two. Our estimates suggest that we can simply rely on risk aversion to explain subjects’ behavior under the veil of ignorance.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Economics Letters.

Volume (Year): 116 (2012)
Issue (Month): 2 ()
Pages: 143-146

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Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolet:v:116:y:2012:i:2:p:143-146
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/ecolet

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  1. Steffen Andersen & Glenn W. Harrison & Morten I. Lau & E. Elisabet Rutström, 2008. "Eliciting Risk and Time Preferences," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 76(3), pages 583-618, 05.
  2. Glenn W. Harrison & Tanga McDaniel, 2008. "Voting games and computational complexity," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 60(3), pages 546-565, July.
  3. Carlsson, Fredrik & Daruvala, Dinky & Johansson-Stenman, Olof, 2001. "Are People Inequality Averse Or Just Risk Averse?," Working Papers in Economics 43, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics.
  4. Fehr, Ernst & Schmidt, Klaus M., . "A theory of fairness, competition, and cooperation," Chapters in Economics, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  5. Antonio Cabrales & Raffaele Miniaci & Marco Piovesan & Giovanni Ponti, 2010. "Social Preferences and Strategic Uncertainty: An Experiment on Markets and Contracts," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(5), pages 2261-78, December.
  6. Urs Fischbacher, 2007. "z-Tree: Zurich toolbox for ready-made economic experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 10(2), pages 171-178, June.
  7. Amiel, Yoram & Creedy, John & Hurn, Stan, 1999. " Measuring Attitudes towards Inequality," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 101(1), pages 83-96, March.
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