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

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

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.

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Article provided by Society for Judgment and Decision Making in its journal Judgment and Decision Making.

Volume (Year): 7 (2012)
Issue (Month): 3 (May)
Pages: 304-315

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Handle: RePEc:jdm:journl:v:7:y:2012:i:3:p:304-315
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  17. Duffy, Sean & Smith, John, 2011. "Cognitive load in the multi-player prisoner's dilemma game," MPRA Paper 30856, University Library of Munich, Germany.
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