IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

The Road to Hell: An Experimental Study of Intentions

  • Charness, Gary
  • Levine, David I.

Do people care about intentions? Good intentions often do not produce good results when a person tries to do something nice for someone else. In this paper, we ask under what circumstances do people pay attention to outcomes and under what circumstances do they focus on intentions. While the aphorism in the paper’s title suggests that outcomes play a larger role than intentions, our study questions this assumption. Some previous studies in economics suggest that the process determining an outcome affects responses to that outcome. Our experimental design improves upon previous methodology by introducing an element of chance in the wage-determination process in an experimental labor market. Using this device, we find that both intentions and outcomes matter; rates of punishment and reward are sensitive to both the wage a firm decides to pay and the (higher or lower) wage actually received after chance intervenes. We feature a specific comparison, in which workers receive identical wages either (1) after a high wage assignment and bad luck, or (2) after a low wage assignment and good luck. Despite identical wages and identical relative payoffs, workers’ responses differ greatly across these contingencies. Our data strongly support the role of intentions, with negative reciprocity overwhelming distributional considerations given low wages.

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: http://www.escholarship.org/uc/item/4xs9d0nz.pdf;origin=repeccitec
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara in its series University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series with number qt4xs9d0nz.

as
in new window

Length:
Date of creation: 05 Aug 2003
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cdl:ucsbec:qt4xs9d0nz
Contact details of provider: Postal: 2127 North Hall, Santa Barbara, CA 93106-9210
Phone: (805) 893-3670
Fax: (805) 893-8830
Web page: http://www.escholarship.org/repec/ucsbecon_dwp/

More information through EDIRC

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. Gary Charness & Matthew Rabin, 2003. "Understanding Social Preferences with Simple Tests," General Economics and Teaching 0303002, EconWPA.
  2. Ernst Fehr & Simon Gaechter, . "Fairness and Retaliation: The Economics of Reciprocitys," IEW - Working Papers 040, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  3. Brandts, Jordi & Sola, Carles, 2001. "Reference Points and Negative Reciprocity in Simple Sequential Games," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 36(2), pages 138-157, August.
  4. Matthew Rabin., 1992. "Incorporating Fairness into Game Theory and Economics," Economics Working Papers 92-199, University of California at Berkeley.
  5. Bertrand, M. & Mullainathan, S., 1998. "Is there Discretion in Wage Setting? A Test Using Takeover Legislation," Papers 203, Princeton, Woodrow Wilson School - Public and International Affairs.
  6. Blanchflower, D. & Oswald, A. & Garrett, M., 1988. "Insider Power In Wage Determination," Papers 319, London School of Economics - Centre for Labour Economics.
  7. Kahneman, Daniel & Knetsch, Jack L & Thaler, Richard, 1986. "Fairness as a Constraint on Profit Seeking: Entitlements in the Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(4), pages 728-41, September.
  8. Margin Dufwenberg & Georg Kirchsteiger, 2001. "A Theory of Sequential Reciprocity," Levine's Working Paper Archive 563824000000000090, David K. Levine.
  9. Brit Grosskopf, 2000. "Relative Payoffs and Happiness: An Experimental Study," Econometric Society World Congress 2000 Contributed Papers 1263, Econometric Society.
  10. James Andreoni & John Miller, 2002. "Giving According to GARP: An Experimental Test of the Consistency of Preferences for Altruism," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(2), pages 737-753, March.
  11. Gary Bolton & Jordi Brandts & Axel Ockenfels, 1998. "Measuring Motivations for the Reciprocal Responses Observed in a Simple Dilemma Game," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 1(3), pages 207-219, December.
  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. Offerman, Theo, 2002. "Hurting hurts more than helping helps," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 46(8), pages 1423-1437, September.
  14. Gary E. Bolton & Jordi Brandts & Elena Katok, 2000. "How strategy sensitive are contributions?," Economic Theory, Springer, vol. 15(2), pages 367-387.
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:cdl:ucsbec:qt4xs9d0nz. 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: (Lisa Schiff)

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.