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Reconciling pro-social vs. selfish behavior: On the role of self-control

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  • Peter Martinsson
  • Kristian Ove R. Myrseth
  • Conny Wollbrant

Abstract

We test in the context of a dictator game the proposition that individuals may experience a self-control conflict between the temptation to act selfishly and the better judgment to act pro-socially. We manipulated the likelihood that individuals would identify self-control conflict, and we measured their trait ability to implement self-control strategies. Our analysis reveals a positive and significant correlation between trait self-control and pro-social behavior in the treatment where we expected a relatively high likelihood of conflict identification---but not in the treatment where we expected a low likelihood. The magnitude of the effect is of economic significance. We conclude that subtle cues might prove sufficient to alter individuals' perception of allocation opportunities, thereby prompting individuals to draw on their own cognitive resources to act pro-socially.

Suggested Citation

  • Peter Martinsson & Kristian Ove R. Myrseth & Conny Wollbrant, 2012. "Reconciling pro-social vs. selfish behavior: On the role of self-control," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 7(3), pages 304-315, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:jdm:journl:v:7:y:2012:i:3:p:304-315
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Stephen Knowles & Maroš Servátka, 2014. "Transaction costs, the Opportunity Cost of Time and Inertia in Charitable Giving:," Working Papers 1401, University of Otago, Department of Economics, revised Jan 2014.
    2. Knutsson, Mikael & Martinsson, Peter & Wollbrant, Conny, 2013. "Do people avoid opportunities to donate?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 93(C), pages 71-77.
    3. Friehe, Tim & Schildberg-Hörisch, Hannah, 2017. "Self-control and crime revisited: Disentangling the effect of self-control on risk taking and antisocial behavior," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 49(C), pages 23-32.
    4. Brice Corgnet & Antonio M. Espín & Roberto Hernán-González, 2015. "The cognitive basis of social behavior: cognitive reflection overrides antisocial but not always prosocial motives," Working Papers 15-04, Chapman University, Economic Science Institute.
    5. Martin G. Kocher & Peter Martinsson & Kristian Ove R. Myrseth & Conny E. Wollbrant, 2017. "Strong, bold, and kind: self-control and cooperation in social dilemmas," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 20(1), pages 44-69, March.
    6. Martin Dufwenberg & Maroš Servátka & Radovan Vadovič, 2012. "ABC on Deals," Working Papers in Economics 12/14, University of Canterbury, Department of Economics and Finance.
    7. Achtziger, Anja & Alós-Ferrer, Carlos & Wagner, Alexander K., 2016. "The impact of self-control depletion on social preferences in the ultimatum game," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 53(C), pages 1-16.
    8. Martinsson, Peter & Myrseth, Kristian Ove R. & Wollbrant, Conny, 2014. "Social dilemmas: When self-control benefits cooperation," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 45(C), pages 213-236.
    9. Dufwenberg, Martin & Servátka, Maroš & Vadovič, Radovan, 2017. "Honesty and informal agreements," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 102(C), pages 269-285.
    10. Hanna Fromell & Daniele Nosenzo & Trudy Owens, 2014. "Tradeoffs between Self-interest and Other-Regarding Preferences Cause Willpower Depletion," Discussion Papers 2014-14, The Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics, School of Economics, University of Nottingham.
    11. Kristian Ove R. Myrseth & Conny Wollbrant, 2015. "Less cognitive conflict does not imply choice of the default option: Commentary on Kieslich and Hilbig (2014)," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 10(3), pages 277-279, May.
    12. Kristian Ove R. Myrseth & Gerhard Riener & Conny Wollbrant, 2013. "Tangible temptation in the social dilemma: Cash, cooperation, and self-control," ESMT Research Working Papers ESMT-13-04, ESMT European School of Management and Technology.
    13. Knowles, Stephen & Servátka, Maroš, 2015. "Transaction costs, the opportunity cost of time and procrastination in charitable giving," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 125(C), pages 54-63.
    14. Blake, Peter R. & Piovesan, Marco & Montinari, Natalia & Warneken, Felix & Gino, Francesca, 2015. "Prosocial norms in the classroom: The role of self-regulation in following norms of giving," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 115(C), pages 18-29.
    15. Guzmán, Andrea & Villegas-Palacio, Clara & Wollbrant, Conny, 2013. "Social Information and Charitable Giving: An artefactual field experiment with young children and adolescents," Working Papers in Economics 564, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics, revised Nov 2014.

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