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Strategic Ignorance and the Robustness of Social Preferences

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  • Zachary Grossman

    ()

    (Department of Economics, University of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, California 93106)

Participants in dictator games frequently avoid learning whether their choice to maximize their own earnings will help or hurt the recipient and then choose selfishly, exploiting the “moral wiggle room” provided by their ignorance. However, this is found in an environment in which the dictator must actively learn the true payoffs, so inaction means ignorance. Does this effect persist when one must actively choose either to be ignorant or to be informed or when one must actively choose to remain ignorant? In fact, whereas 45% of dictators remain ignorant when one must click to become informed, this drops to 25% when one must click in either case and to 3% when one must click to remain ignorant. Although the exploitation of moral wiggle room is not merely an artifact, it is, much like social behavior itself, subject to environmental and psychological factors that may reinforce or undermine its impact.Data, as supplemental material, are available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1287/mnsc.2014.1989 . This paper was accepted by Uri Gneezy, behavioral economics .

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File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1287/mnsc.2014.1989
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Article provided by INFORMS in its journal Management Science.

Volume (Year): 60 (2014)
Issue (Month): 11 (November)
Pages: 2659-2665

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Handle: RePEc:inm:ormnsc:v:60:y:2014:i:11:p:2659-2665
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  1. Gary Charness & Matthew Rabin, 2002. "Understanding Social Preferences with Simple Tests," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(3), pages 817-869.
  2. Charness, Gary & Jackson, Matthew O., 2009. "The role of responsibility in strategic risk-taking," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 69(3), pages 241-247, March.
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  8. Greiner, Ben, 2004. "An Online Recruitment System for Economic Experiments," MPRA Paper 13513, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  9. Björn Bartling & Urs Fischbacher, 2012. "Shifting the Blame: On Delegation and Responsibility," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 79(1), pages 67-87.
  10. Gary Charness & Martin Dufwenberg, 2006. "Promises and Partnership," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 74(6), pages 1579-1601, November.
  11. Jason Dana & Roberto Weber & Jason Kuang, 2007. "Exploiting moral wiggle room: experiments demonstrating an illusory preference for fairness," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 33(1), pages 67-80, October.
  12. Rabin, Matthew, 1993. "Incorporating Fairness into Game Theory and Economics," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(5), pages 1281-1302, December.
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