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Shifting the blame to a powerless intermediary

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  • Regine Oexl

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  • Zachary Grossman

Abstract

We extend the results of Bartling and Fischbacher (Rev. Econ. Stud. 79(1):67–87, 2012 ) by showing that, by delegating to an intermediary, a dictator facing an allocation decision can effectively shift blame onto the delegee even when doing so necessarily eliminates the possibility of a fair outcome. Dictators choosing selfishly via an intermediary are punished less and earn greater profits than those who do so directly. Despite being powerless to influence the fairness of the outcome, an intermediary given the choice between two unfair outcomes is punished more than when the dictator chooses one directly. This is not the case when the intermediary merely can initiate the random selection of one of the outcomes. Our findings reinforce and clarify the usefulness of agency as a tool to evade perceived culpability. Copyright Economic Science Association 2013

Suggested Citation

  • Regine Oexl & Zachary Grossman, 2013. "Shifting the blame to a powerless intermediary," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 16(3), pages 306-312, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:expeco:v:16:y:2013:i:3:p:306-312
    DOI: 10.1007/s10683-012-9335-7
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1007/s10683-012-9335-7
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    References listed on IDEAS

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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.
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    4. Dufwenberg, Martin & Kirchsteiger, Georg, 2004. "A theory of sequential reciprocity," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 47(2), pages 268-298, May.
    5. Zachary Grossman, 2014. "Strategic Ignorance and the Robustness of Social Preferences," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 60(11), pages 2659-2665, November.
    6. Axel Ockenfels & Gary E. Bolton, 2000. "ERC: A Theory of Equity, Reciprocity, and Competition," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(1), pages 166-193, March.
    7. Fershtman, Chaim & Gneezy, Uri, 2001. "Strategic Delegation: An Experiment," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 32(2), pages 352-368, Summer.
    8. Lucas C. Coffman, 2011. "Intermediation Reduces Punishment (and Reward)," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 3(4), pages 77-106, November.
    9. Urs Fischbacher, 2007. "z-Tree: Zurich toolbox for ready-made economic experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 10(2), pages 171-178, June.
    10. John R. Hamman & George Loewenstein & Roberto A. Weber, 2010. "Self-Interest through Delegation: An Additional Rationale for the Principal-Agent Relationship," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(4), pages 1826-1846, September.
    11. 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.
    12. 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.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Zachary Grossman, 2014. "Strategic Ignorance and the Robustness of Social Preferences," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 60(11), pages 2659-2665, November.
    2. repec:bla:ecinqu:v:55:y:2017:i:1:p:409-424 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. repec:eee:jeborg:v:147:y:2018:i:c:p:1-12 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Wu, Jiabin, 2016. "Indirect Higher Order Beliefs and Cooperation," MPRA Paper 69600, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    5. Amy K. Choy & John R. Hamman & Ronald R. King & Roberto A. Weber, 2016. "Delegated bargaining in a competitive agent market: an experimental study," Journal of the Economic Science Association, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 2(1), pages 22-35, May.
    6. Laura Metzger & Isabel Günther, 2015. "Making an impact? The relevance of information on aid effectiveness for charitable giving. A laboratory experiment," Courant Research Centre: Poverty, Equity and Growth - Discussion Papers 182, Courant Research Centre PEG.
    7. Rosenbaum, Stephen Mark & Billinger, Stephan & Stieglitz, Nils, 2014. "Let’s be honest: A review of experimental evidence of honesty and truth-telling," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 45(C), pages 181-196.
    8. Bartling Björn & Grieder Manuel & Zehnder Christian, 2014. "Does competition justify inequality?," ECON - Working Papers 158, Department of Economics - University of Zurich, revised Nov 2015.
    9. Sutan, Angela & Vranceanu, Radu, 2016. "Lying about delegation," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 121(C), pages 29-40.
    10. Tobias Regner, 2016. "Reciprocity under moral wiggle room: is it a preference or a constraint?," Jena Economic Research Papers 2016-024, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena.
    11. repec:eee:pubeco:v:156:y:2017:i:c:p:34-47 is not listed on IDEAS
    12. Wang, Long & Murnighan, J. Keith, 2016. "Two- rather than one-way streets: Agents as causal forces in principals’ unethical decisions," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 132(PA), pages 217-227.
    13. Bolle, Friedel, 2017. "Passing the Buck On the acceptance of responsibility," Research in Economics, Elsevier, vol. 71(1), pages 86-101.

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