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Shifting the Blame: On Delegation and Responsibility

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  • Björn Bartling
  • Urs Fischbacher

Abstract

To fully understand the motives for delegating a decision right, it is important to study responsibility attributions for outcomes of delegated decisions. We conducted laboratory experiments in which subjects could either choose a fair allocation or an unfair allocation or delegate the choice, and we used a punishment option to elicit responsibility attributions. Our results show that, first, responsibility attribution can be effectively shifted and, second, this can constitute a strong motive for the delegation of a decision right. Moreover, we propose a simple measure of responsibility and show that this measure outperforms measures based on inequity aversion or reciprocity in predicting punishment behaviour. Copyright 2012, Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:restud:v:79:y:2012:i:1:p:67-87
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1093/restud/rdr023
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement

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