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Understanding Social Preferences With Simple Tests

  • Charness, Gary B
  • Rabin, Matthew

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.

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Paper provided by Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara in its series University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series with number qt0dc3k4m5.

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Date of creation: 01 Aug 2001
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cdl:ucsbec:qt0dc3k4m5
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  1. Fehr, Ernst & Schmidt, Klaus M., 1999. "A theory of fairness, competition, and cooperation," Munich Reprints in Economics 20650, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  2. Andreoni, James & Brown, Paul M. & Vesterlund, Lise, 2002. "What Makes an Allocation Fair? Some Experimental Evidence," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 40(1), pages 1-24, July.
  3. Norman Frohlich & Joe Oppenheimer & Pat Bond & Irvin Boschman, 1984. "Beyond Economic Man," Journal of Conflict Resolution, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 28(1), pages 3-24, March.
  4. Charness, Gary B & Grosskopf, Brit, 2000. "Relative Payoffs And Happiness: An Experimental Study," University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series qt8389x8z2, Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara.
  5. Armin Falk & Urs Fischbacher, . "A Theory of Reciprocity," IEW - Working Papers 006, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  6. Dirk Engelmann & Martin Strobel, 2004. "Inequality Aversion, Efficiency, and Maximin Preferences in Simple Distribution Experiments," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(4), pages 857-869, September.
  7. Georg Kirchsteiger & Martin Dufwenberg, 2004. "A theory of sequential reciprocity," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/5899, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  8. Armin Falk & Ernst Fehr & Urs Fischbacher, . "On the Nature of Fair Behavior," IEW - Working Papers 017, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  9. Gary Charness & Matthew Rabin, 1999. "Social preferences: Some simple tests and a new model," Economics Working Papers 441, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, revised Jan 2000.
  10. Charness, Gary & Haruvy, Ernan, 2002. "Altruism, equity, and reciprocity in a gift-exchange experiment: an encompassing approach," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 40(2), pages 203-231, August.
  11. Berg Joyce & Dickhaut John & McCabe Kevin, 1995. "Trust, Reciprocity, and Social History," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 122-142, July.
  12. 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.
  13. Brandts, J. & Sola, C., 1998. "Reference Points and Negative Reciprocity in Simple Sequential Games," UFAE and IAE Working Papers 425.98, Unitat de Fonaments de l'Anàlisi Econòmica (UAB) and Institut d'Anàlisi Econòmica (CSIC).
  14. McCabe, Kevin A. & Rigdon, Mary L. & Smith, Vernon L., 2003. "Positive reciprocity and intentions in trust games," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 52(2), pages 267-275, October.
  15. Dufwenberg, Martin & Gneezy, Uri, 2000. "Measuring Beliefs in an Experimental Lost Wallet Game," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 30(2), pages 163-182, February.
  16. Gary Bolton & Jordi Brandts & Axel Ockenfels, 1998. "Measuring Motivations for the Reciprocal Responses Observed in a Simple Dilemma Game," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 1(3), pages 207-219, December.
  17. James Andreoni, 2001. "Giving According to GARP," Theory workshop papers 339, UCLA Department of Economics.
  18. M. Rabin, 2001. "Incorporating Fairness into Game Theory and Economics," Levine's Working Paper Archive 511, David K. Levine.
  19. Croson, Rachel T. A., 1999. "The Disjunction Effect and Reason-Based Choice in Games, , , , , , , , , , , , ," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 80(2), pages 118-133, November.
  20. Gary E. Bolton & Axel Ockenfels, 1998. "Strategy and Equity: An ERC Analysis of the Guth-van Damme Game," Levine's Working Paper Archive 2060, David K. Levine.
  21. Gary E. Bolton & Jordi Brandts & Elena Katok, 2000. "How strategy sensitive are contributions?," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 15(2), pages 367-387.
  22. Timothy N. Cason & Vai-Lam Mui, 1998. "Social Influence in the Sequential Dictator Game," Monash Economics Working Papers archive-37, Monash University, Department of Economics.
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