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Nice to you, nicer to me: Does self-serving generosity diminish the reciprocal response?

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  • Daniel Woods

    (Purdue University, Krannert School of Management)

  • Maroš Servátka

    (Macquarie Graduate School of Management
    University of Economics)

Abstract

Reciprocity has been shown to be sensitive to perceived intentions, however, not much is known about the intensity of reciprocal responses to the precise nature of those intentions. For example, a person can strategically appear to be kind while being self-serving or can be selflessly (genuinely) kind. Do these two intentions elicit different reciprocal reactions? We propose a conjecture that self-serving but generous actions diminish the positively reciprocal response, compared to selfless generous actions. We classify actions that increase a recipient’s maximum payoff, but by less than the giver’s maximum payoff, as being self-serving generous actions, while classifying actions that increase a recipient’s maximum payoff by more than the giver’s as selfless generous actions. We hypothesize that selfless generous actions are considered more generous than self-serving generous actions, and that self-serving generous actions will therefore result in a diminished reciprocal response. We test this conjecture using two novel experimental designs. We find some evidence that subjects perceive self-serving generous actions as being less generous than selfless generous actions, but no empirical support for our conjecture on the diminished reciprocal response.

Suggested Citation

  • Daniel Woods & Maroš Servátka, 2019. "Nice to you, nicer to me: Does self-serving generosity diminish the reciprocal response?," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 22(2), pages 506-529, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:expeco:v:22:y:2019:i:2:d:10.1007_s10683-018-9561-8
    DOI: 10.1007/s10683-018-9561-8
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    Cited by:

    1. Danková, Katarína & Morita, Hodaka & Servátka, Maroš & Zhang, Le, 2019. "Job assignment and fairness concerns," MPRA Paper 95918, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Katarína Danková & Hodaka Morita & Maroš Servátka & Le Zhang, 2022. "Fairness concerns and job assignment to positions with different surplus," Southern Economic Journal, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 88(4), pages 1490-1516, April.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Reciprocity; Generosity; Self-Serving; Genuine; Experiment; Lost wallet game; Investment game;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C70 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - General
    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior

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