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Understanding Social Preferences With Simple Tests

  • Gary Charness
  • Matthew Rabin

Departures from self-interest in economic experiments have recently inspired models of "social preferences." We design a range of simple experimental games that test these theories more directly than existing experiments. Our experiments show that subjects are more concerned with increasing social welfare-sacrificing to increase the payoffs for all recipients, especially low-payoff recipients-than with reducing differences in payoffs (as supposed in recent models). Subjects are also motivated by reciprocity: they withdraw willingness to sacrifice to achieve a fair outcome when others are themselves unwilling to sacrifice, and sometimes punish unfair behavior. © 2001 the President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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Article provided by MIT Press in its journal The Quarterly Journal of Economics.

Volume (Year): 117 (2002)
Issue (Month): 3 (August)
Pages: 817-869

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Handle: RePEc:tpr:qjecon:v:117:y:2002:i:3:p:817-869
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