Responsibility and effort in an experimental labor market
Previous indirect evidence suggests that impulses towards pro-social behavior are diminished when an external authority is responsible for an outcome. The responsibility-alleviation effect states that a shift of responsibility to an external authority dampens internal impulses toward honesty, loyalty, or generosity. In a gift-exchange experiment, we find that subjects respond with more generosity (higher effort) when wages are determined by a random process than when assigned by a third party, indicating that even a slight shift in perceived responsibility for the final payoffs can change behavior. Responsibility-alleviation can be a factor in economic environments featuring substantial personal interaction.
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