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The appearance of homo rivalis: Social preferences and the nature of rent seeking

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  • Benedikt Herrmann

    () (University of Nottingham)

  • Henrik Orzen

    () (University of Nottingham)

Abstract

While numerous experiments demonstrate how pro-sociality can influence economic decision-making, evidence on explicitly anti-social economic behavior has thus far been limited. In this paper we investigate the importance of spite in experimental rent-seeking contests. Although, as we show, existing evidence of excessive rent-seeking is in theory compatible with fairness considerations, our social preference elicitations reveal that subjects’ investments are driven by spite, not fairness or reciprocity. We also observe a striking disconnect between individuals’ revealed social preferences in our contest game and in a standard prisoner’s dilemma, rejecting the idea that there are consistent pro-social, selfish or anti-social “types”. Moreover, we find that cooperation and reciprocity rates drop substantially after subjects have been exposed to rent-seeking competition.

Suggested Citation

  • Benedikt Herrmann & Henrik Orzen, 2008. "The appearance of homo rivalis: Social preferences and the nature of rent seeking," Discussion Papers 2008-10, The Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics, School of Economics, University of Nottingham.
  • Handle: RePEc:cdx:dpaper:2008-10
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Keywords

    Contests; Other-regarding preferences; Experiments;

    JEL classification:

    • A13 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Relation of Economics to Social Values
    • C9 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments
    • D0 - Microeconomics - - General
    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior

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