IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/a/eee/pubeco/v95y2011i3-4p279-285.html
   My bibliography  Save this article

Relative versus absolute income, joy of winning, and gender: Brain imaging evidence

Author

Listed:
  • Dohmen, Thomas
  • Falk, Armin
  • Fliessbach, Klaus
  • Sunde, Uwe
  • Weber, Bernd

Abstract

In this paper we study the role of absolute versus relative income using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). While being scanned in two adjacent MRI scanners, pairs of subjects had to simultaneously perform a simple estimation task that entailed monetary rewards for correct answers. We show that a variation in the comparison subject's payment affects blood oxygenation level-dependent (BOLD) responses in the ventral striatum. This brain region is engaged in the prediction and registration of primary rewards such as food delivery as well as more abstract forms of rewards like money. In particular, we show that activation in the ventral striatum increases in absolute income and - for a given level of absolute income - decreases in lower relative income. Using a male and a female sample allows us to study whether the perception of relative and absolute incomes is gender specific. We find that the effects of absolute and relative incomes are strong and relatively similar for both genders. Finally, we analyze the importance of "joy of winning", i.e., the impact of outperforming another subject. Our results suggest that the mere fact of outperforming the other subject positively affects reward related brain areas.

Suggested Citation

  • Dohmen, Thomas & Falk, Armin & Fliessbach, Klaus & Sunde, Uwe & Weber, Bernd, 2011. "Relative versus absolute income, joy of winning, and gender: Brain imaging evidence," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(3-4), pages 279-285, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:95:y:2011:i:3-4:p:279-285
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0047-2727(10)00185-4
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only
    ---><---

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version below or search for a different version of it.

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Neumark, David & Postlewaite, Andrew, 1998. "Relative income concerns and the rise in married women's employment," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(1), pages 157-183, October.
    2. Andrew E. Clark & Paul Frijters & Michael A. Shields, 2008. "Relative Income, Happiness, and Utility: An Explanation for the Easterlin Paradox and Other Puzzles," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 46(1), pages 95-144, March.
    3. Michael J. Boskin & Eytan Sheshinski, 1978. "Optimal Redistributive Taxation When Individual Welfare Depends upon Relative Income," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 92(4), pages 589-601.
    4. Jehiel, Philippe & Moldovanu, Benny & Stacchetti, Ennio, 1996. "How (Not) to Sell Nuclear Weapons," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(4), pages 814-829, September.
    5. Benny Moldovanu & Aner Sela & Xianwen Shi, 2007. "Contests for Status," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 115, pages 338-363.
    6. Armin Falk & Andrea Ichino, 2006. "Clean Evidence on Peer Effects," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(1), pages 39-58, January.
    7. Clark, Andrew E. & Oswald, Andrew J., 1996. "Satisfaction and comparison income," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 61(3), pages 359-381, September.
    8. Muriel Niederle & Lise Vesterlund, 2007. "Do Women Shy Away From Competition? Do Men Compete Too Much?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(3), pages 1067-1101.
    9. Uri Gneezy & Muriel Niederle & Aldo Rustichini, 2003. "Performance in Competitive Environments: Gender Differences," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(3), pages 1049-1074.
    10. Easterlin, Richard A, 2001. "Income and Happiness: Towards an Unified Theory," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 111(473), pages 465-484, July.
    11. Fliessbach, Klaus & Weber, Bernd & Trautner, P. & Dohmen, Thomas J. & Sunde, Uwe & Elger, C. E. & Falk, Armin, 2007. "Social comparison affects reward-related brain activity in the human ventral striatum," Munich Reprints in Economics 20362, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
    12. Robert H. Frank, 1984. "Interdependent Preferences and the Competitive Wage Structure," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 15(4), pages 510-520, Winter.
    13. Kräkel, Matthias, 2008. "Emotions in tournaments," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 67(1), pages 204-214, July.
    14. Olof Johansson-Stenman & Fredrik Carlsson & Dinky Daruvala, 2002. "Measuring Future Grandparents" Preferences for Equality and Relative Standing," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(479), pages 362-383, April.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Corazzini, Luca & Esposito, Lucio & Majorano, Francesca, 2012. "Reign in hell or serve in heaven? A cross-country journey into the relative vs absolute perceptions of wellbeing," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 81(3), pages 715-730.
    2. Dohmen, Thomas, 2014. "Behavioral labor economics: Advances and future directions," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(C), pages 71-85.
    3. Jérémy Celse, 2017. "An Experimental Investigation of the Impact of Absolute and Relative Inequalities on Individual Satisfaction," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 18(4), pages 939-958, August.
    4. Van Landeghem, Bert & Vandeplas, Anneleen, 2018. "The relationship between status and happiness: Evidence from the caste system in rural India," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 77(C), pages 62-71.
    5. Benno Torgler & Sascha L. Schmidt & Bruno S. Frey, 2006. "The Power of Positional Concerns: A Panel Analysis," CREMA Working Paper Series 2006-19, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA).
    6. Aronsson, Thomas & Johansson-Stenman, Olof, 2014. "Positional preferences in time and space: Optimal income taxation with dynamic social comparisons," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 101(C), pages 1-23.
    7. Andrew E. Clark & Nicolai Kristensen & Niels Westergård‐Nielsen, 2009. "Job Satisfaction and Co‐worker Wages: Status or Signal?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 119(536), pages 430-447, March.
    8. Armin Falk & Markus Knell, 2004. "Choosing the Joneses: Endogenous Goals and Reference Standards," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 106(3), pages 417-435, October.
    9. Camelia M. Kuhnen & Agnieszka Tymula, 2012. "Feedback, Self-Esteem, and Performance in Organizations," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 58(1), pages 94-113, January.
    10. Benno Torgler & Sascha L. Schmidt & Bruno S. Frey, 2006. "Relative Income Position And Performance: An Empirical Panel Analysis," IEW - Working Papers 268, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
    11. Aronsson, Thomas & Johansson-Stenman, Olof, 2015. "Keeping up with the Joneses, the Smiths and the Tanakas: On international tax coordination and social comparisons," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 131(C), pages 71-86.
    12. Benno Torgler & Justina A.V. Fischer, 2006. "Does Envy Destroy Social Fundamentals? The Impact of Relative Income Position on Social Capital," Working Papers 2006.38, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
    13. Markus Schaffner & Benno Torgler, 2008. "Meet the Joneses: An Empirical Investigation of Reference Groups in Relative Income Position Comparisons," CREMA Working Paper Series 2008-13, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA).
    14. Schwerter, Frederik, 2013. "Social Reference Points and Risk Taking," Bonn Econ Discussion Papers 11/2013, University of Bonn, Bonn Graduate School of Economics (BGSE).
    15. Aronsson, Thomas & Johansson-Stenman, Olof, 2014. "State-variable public goods and social comparisons," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 68(2), pages 390-410.
    16. Markus Schaffner & Benno Torgler, 2008. "Meet the Joneses: An Empirical Investigation of Reference Groups in Relative Income Position Comparisons," CREMA Working Paper Series 2008-13, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA).
    17. Erzo F. P. Luttmer, 2005. "Neighbors as Negatives: Relative Earnings and Well-Being," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 120(3), pages 963-1002.
    18. Lang, Harald & Konrad, Kai A. & Morath, Florian, 2015. "A Glance into the Tunnel: Experimental Evidence of Expectations Versus Comparison Considerations," VfS Annual Conference 2015 (Muenster): Economic Development - Theory and Policy 113017, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    19. Schwerter, Frederik, 2015. "Social Reference Points and Risk Taking," VfS Annual Conference 2015 (Muenster): Economic Development - Theory and Policy 112889, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    20. Emmanuel Dechenaux & Dan Kovenock & Roman Sheremeta, 2015. "A survey of experimental research on contests, all-pay auctions and tournaments," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 18(4), pages 609-669, December.

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:95:y:2011:i:3-4:p:279-285. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: . General contact details of provider: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/505578 .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: Nithya Sathishkumar (email available below). General contact details of provider: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/505578 .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.