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Self-selection and variations in the laboratory measurement of other-regarding preferences across subject pools: evidence from one college student and two adult samples

  • Jon Anderson
  • Stephen Burks
  • Jeffrey Carpenter
  • Lorenz Götte
  • Karsten Maurer
  • Daniele Nosenzo


  • Ruth Potter
  • Kim Rocha
  • Aldo Rustichini

We measure the other-regarding behavior in samples from three related populations in the upper Midwest of the United States: college students, non-student adults from the community surrounding the college, and adult trainee truckers in a residential training program. The use of typical experimental economics recruitment procedures made the first two groups substantially self-selected. Because the context reduced the opportunity cost of participating dramatically, 91 % of the adult trainees solicited participated, leaving little scope for self-selection in this sample. We find no differences in the elicited other-regarding preferences between the self-selected adults and the adult trainees, suggesting that selection is unlikely to bias inferences about the prevalence of other-regarding preferences among non-student adult subjects. Our data also reject the more specific hypothesis that approval-seeking subjects are the ones most likely to select into experiments. Finally, we observe a large difference between self-selected college students and self-selected adults: the students appear considerably less pro-social. Copyright Economic Science Association 2013

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Article provided by Springer in its journal Experimental Economics.

Volume (Year): 16 (2013)
Issue (Month): 2 (June)
Pages: 170-189

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Handle: RePEc:kap:expeco:v:16:y:2013:i:2:p:170-189
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