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Social preferences and moral biases

  • Croson, Rachel
  • Konow, James

An emerging consensus in economics is that three motives are at work in strategic decisions: distributive preferences, reciprocal preferences and self-interest. An important obstacle, however, has been moral biases: distortions created by self-interest can obscure our measures of social preferences. This paper describes a simple experiment to address this. We compare the decisions of implicated "stakeholders" with those of impartial "spectators." We find that stakeholders are less inclined to respond to the generosity of others than are spectators. We also clarify a result in previous research [e.g., Offerman, T., 2002. Hurting hurts more than helping helps. European Economic Review 46, 1423-1437] that stakeholders punish unkindness more than they reward kindness. We find that this asymmetry in reciprocity has two sources: an asymmetry in the underlying preference that even impartial spectators display and a moral bias; stakeholders punish more and reward less than spectators. In sum, we find that all three motives have important and significant effects on final allocations.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization.

Volume (Year): 69 (2009)
Issue (Month): 3 (March)
Pages: 201-212

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Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:69:y:2009:i:3:p:201-212
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