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Sharing Guilt: How Better Access to Information May Backfire

Author

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  • Roman Inderst

    (Goethe University Frankfurt, D-60323 Frankfurt am Main, Germany)

  • Kiryl Khalmetski

    (University of Cologne, D-50923 Cologne, Germany)

  • Axel Ockenfels

    (University of Cologne, D-50923 Cologne, Germany)

Abstract

We study strategic communication between a customer and an advisor who is privately informed about the most suitable choice for the customer but whose preferences are misaligned with the customer’s preferences. The advisor sends a message to the customer who, in turn, can secure herself from bad advice by acquiring costly information on her own. In our experiments, we find that making the customer’s information acquisition less costly leads to less prosocial behavior of the advisor. This can be explained by a model of shared guilt, which predicts a shift in causal attribution of guilt from the advisor to the customer if the latter could have avoided her ex post disappointment. We conclude that providing better access to information through, for example, consumer protection regulation or digital information aggregation and dissemination, may have unintended negative consequences on peoples’ willingness to take responsibility for each other.

Suggested Citation

  • Roman Inderst & Kiryl Khalmetski & Axel Ockenfels, 2019. "Sharing Guilt: How Better Access to Information May Backfire," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 65(7), pages 3322-3336, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:inm:ormnsc:v:65:y:2019:i:7:p:3322-3336
    DOI: 10.1287/mnsc.2018.3101
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    1. Bauer, Kevin & Gill, Andrej, 2021. "Mirror, mirror on the wall: Machine predictions and self-fulfilling prophecies," SAFE Working Paper Series 313, Leibniz Institute for Financial Research SAFE.
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    3. Sanjit Dhami & Mengxing Wei & Ali al-Nowaihi, 2021. "Classical and Belief-Based Gift Exchange Models: Theory and Evidence," CESifo Working Paper Series 8992, CESifo.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    shared guilt; trust; guilt aversion; responsibility diffusion; advice;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness

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