IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this article

Shifting the Blame: On Delegation and Responsibility

  • Björn Bartling
  • Urs Fischbacher

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.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.

Article provided by Oxford University Press in its journal The Review of Economic Studies.

Volume (Year): 79 (2012)
Issue (Month): 1 ()
Pages: 67-87

in new window

Handle: RePEc:oup:restud:v:79:y:2012:i:1:p:67-87
Contact details of provider:

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. James Konow, 2000. "Fair Shares: Accountability and Cognitive Dissonance in Allocation Decisions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(4), pages 1072-1091, September.
  2. Margin Dufwenberg & Georg Kirchsteiger, 2001. "A Theory of Sequential Reciprocity," Levine's Working Paper Archive 563824000000000090, David K. Levine.
  3. Aghion, Philippe & Tirole, Jean, 1994. "Formal and Real Authority in Organizations," IDEI Working Papers 37, Institut d'Économie Industrielle (IDEI), Toulouse.
  4. 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.
  5. Steffen Huck & Wieland Müller & Hans-Theo Norman, 2000. "Strategic Delegation in Experimental Markets," CESifo Working Paper Series 290, CESifo Group Munich.
  6. Mathias Dewatripont & Patrick Bolton, 2005. "Contract theory," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/9543, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  7. 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.
  8. Charness, Gary B, 1999. "Responsibility And Effort In An Experimental Labor Market," University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series qt7x98w91h, Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara.
  9. Roland Bénabou & Jean Tirole, 2002. "Self-Confidence and Personal Motivation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(3), pages 871-915.
  10. M. Rabin, 2001. "Incorporating Fairness into Game Theory and Economics," Levine's Working Paper Archive 511, David K. Levine.
  11. Morris Fiorina, 1982. "Legislative choice of regulatory forms: Legal process or administrative process?," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 39(1), pages 33-66, January.
  12. Kenneth Rogoff, 1985. "The Optimal Degree of Commitment to an Intermediate Monetary Target," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 100(4), pages 1169-1189.
  13. Urs Fischbacher, 2007. "z-Tree: Zurich toolbox for ready-made economic experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 10(2), pages 171-178, June.
  14. Fehr, Ernst & Schmidt, Klaus M., 1998. "A Theory of Fairness, Competition and Cooperation," CEPR Discussion Papers 1812, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  15. 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 1826-46, September.
  16. Forsythe Robert & Horowitz Joel L. & Savin N. E. & Sefton Martin, 1994. "Fairness in Simple Bargaining Experiments," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 6(3), pages 347-369, May.
  17. Manove, Michael, 1997. "Job Responsibility, Pay and Promotion," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 107(440), pages 85-103, January.
  18. Falk, Armin & Fischbacher, Urs, 2001. "A Theory of Reciprocity," CEPR Discussion Papers 3014, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  19. Jones, Stephen R. G., 1989. "Have your lawyer call my lawyer : Bilateral delegation in bargaining situations," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 11(2), pages 159-174, March.
  20. Roland Vaubel, 1986. "A public choice approach to international organization," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 51(1), pages 39-57, January.
  21. Prendergast, Canice J, 1995. "A Theory of Responsibility in Organizations," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 13(3), pages 387-400, July.
  22. Fershtman, Chaim & Gneezy, Uri, 2001. "Strategic Delegation: An Experiment," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 32(2), pages 352-68, Summer.
  23. Blount, Sally, 1995. "When Social Outcomes Aren't Fair: The Effect of Causal Attributions on Preferences," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 63(2), pages 131-144, August.
  24. Schotter, Andrew & Zheng, Wei & Snyder, Blaine, 2000. "Bargaining Through Agents: An Experimental Study of Delegation and Commitment," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 30(2), pages 248-292, February.
  25. Sliwka, Dirk, 2004. "On the Notion of Responsibility in Organizations," IZA Discussion Papers 1423, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  26. David K Levine, 1997. "Modeling Altruism and Spitefulness in Experiments," Levine's Working Paper Archive 2047, David K. Levine.
  27. Greiner, Ben, 2004. "An Online Recruitment System for Economic Experiments," MPRA Paper 13513, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  28. 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.
  29. Edward Lazear & Ulrike Malmendier & Roberto Weber, 2006. "Sorting, Prices, and Social Preferences," NBER Working Papers 12041, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:oup:restud:v:79:y:2012:i:1:p:67-87. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Oxford University Press)

or (Christopher F. Baum)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.