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The (in)stability of social preferences: Using justice sensitivity to predict when altruism collapses

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  • Lotz, Sebastian
  • Schlösser, Thomas
  • Cain, Daylian M.
  • Fetchenhauer, Detlef

Abstract

Recent research suggests that altruism can be surprisingly tenuous; minor situational variations can turn altruism on and off. For example, if provided with sufficient cover, “reluctant altruists” will often avoid situations that compel them to give, and they may even secretly renege on gifts they just made. This behavior puts pressure on classic explanations of altruism and raises many questions about its stability. Is everyone's altruism prone to such collapse? If not, how can one predict it? We show that some people exhibit more stable altruism, predicting who is who weeks prior to the task. We show that high degrees of justice sensitivity is associated with pro-social behavior across situations, while low degrees of justice sensitivity relate to the use of situational variables as excuse to display less altruistic behavior. Our findings contribute to recent research on altruism and give insight into how to predict it.

Suggested Citation

  • Lotz, Sebastian & Schlösser, Thomas & Cain, Daylian M. & Fetchenhauer, Detlef, 2013. "The (in)stability of social preferences: Using justice sensitivity to predict when altruism collapses," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 93(C), pages 141-148.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:93:y:2013:i:c:p:141-148
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jebo.2013.07.012
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Conrads, Julian & Lotz, Sebastian, 2015. "The effect of communication channels on dishonest behavior," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 58(C), pages 88-93.
    2. Feiler, Lauren, 2014. "Testing models of information avoidance with binary choice dictator games," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 45(C), pages 253-267.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Altruism; Social preferences; Justice sensitivity; Information processing;

    JEL classification:

    • A12 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Relation of Economics to Other Disciplines
    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles

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