IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this book chapter or follow this series

The Economics of Fairness, Reciprocity and Altruism - Experimental Evidence and New Theories

  • Fehr, Ernst
  • Schmidt, Klaus M.

Most economic models are based on the self-interest hypothesis that assumes that material self-interest exclusively motivates all people. Experimental economists have gathered overwhelming evidence in recent years, however, that systematically refutes the self-interest hypothesis, suggesting that concerns for altruism, fairness, and reciprocity strongly motivate many people. Moreover, several theoretical papers demonstrate that the observed phenomena can be explained in a rigorous and tractable manner. These theories then induced a first wave of experimental research which offered exciting insights into both the nature of preferences and the relative performance of competing fairness theories. The purpose of this chapter is to review these developments, to point out open questions, and to suggest avenues for future research. We also discuss recent neuroeconomic evidence that is consistent with the view that many people have a taste for mutual cooperation and the punishment of norm violators. We further illustrate the powerful impact of fairness concerns on cooperation, competition, incentives, and contract design.

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: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

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.

in new window

This chapter was published in:
  • S. Kolm & Jean Mercier Ythier (ed.), 2006. "Handbook of the Economics of Giving, Altruism and Reciprocity," Handbook on the Economics of Giving, Reciprocity and Altruism, Elsevier, edition 1, volume 1, number 1, 00.
  • This item is provided by Elsevier in its series Handbook on the Economics of Giving, Reciprocity and Altruism with number 1-08.
    Handle: RePEc:eee:givchp:1-08
    Contact details of provider: Web page:

    No references listed on IDEAS
    You can help add them by filling out this form.

    This item is featured on the following reading lists or Wikipedia pages:

    1. Wikipedia talk:Requests for comment/Paid editing in Wikipedia English ne '')

    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:givchp:1-08. 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: (Zhang, Lei)

    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.