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Are economists more selfish than other `social' scientists?


  • Richard Biel
  • David Laband


There is considerable professional disagreement among economists about whether economists are less cooperative than non-economists. It has been argued that once an individual has been schooled in the self-interest model of individual human behavior (s)he exhibits more selfish behavior than other, ostensibly similar individuals who have not been taught to fully appreciate Homo economicus. Heretofore, the empirical debate has centered around classroom experiments designed to compare the "honesty" of undergraduate economics majors versus non economics majors. However, methodological problems have plagued these studies, leaving both sides at an impasse. We offer unique and compelling real-world evidence that suggests economists are no less cooperative than non-economists. Indeed, after comparing the incidence of "cheating" on their Association dues, we find that professional economists are significantly more honest/cooperative than professional political scientists, and especially, professional sociologists.

Suggested Citation

  • Richard Biel & David Laband, 1999. "Are economists more selfish than other `social' scientists?," Artefactual Field Experiments 00076, The Field Experiments Website.
  • Handle: RePEc:feb:artefa:00076

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    Cited by:

    1. Bruno S. Frey & Stephan Meier, "undated". "Political Economists are Neither Selfish nor Indoctrinated," IEW - Working Papers 069, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
    2. Muñoz-Izquierdo, Nora & Gil-Gómez de Liaño, Beatriz & Rin-Sánchez, Francisco Daniel & Pascual-Ezama, David, 2014. "Economists: cheaters with altruistic instincts," MPRA Paper 60678, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Ruske René & Suttner Johannes, 2012. "Wie (un-)fair sind Ökonomen? – Neue empirische Evidenz zur Marktbewertung und Rationalität / How (un-)fair are economists? New empirical evidence on market valuation and rationality," ORDO. Jahrbuch für die Ordnung von Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft, De Gruyter, vol. 63(1), pages 179-194, January.
    4. Astri Drange Hole, 2013. "How do economists differ from others in distributive situations?," Nordic Journal of Political Economy, Nordic Journal of Political Economy, vol. 38, pages 1-4.
    5. İbrahim Erdem SEÇİLMİŞ, 2014. "Seniority: A Blessing or A Curse? The Effect of Economics Training on the Perception of Distributive Justice," Sosyoekonomi Journal, Sosyoekonomi Society, issue 22(22).
    6. Djanali, Iwan & Sheehan-Connor, Damien, 2012. "Tax affinity hypothesis: Do we really hate paying taxes?," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 33(4), pages 758-775.
    7. Luigi Zingales, 2015. "Does Finance Benefit Society?," NBER Working Papers 20894, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Buchan, Nancy R. & Johnson, Eric J. & Croson, Rachel T.A., 2006. "Let's get personal: An international examination of the influence of communication, culture and social distance on other regarding preferences," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 60(3), pages 373-398, July.
    9. Bruno S. Frey, 2000. "Was Bewirkt die Volkswirtschaftslehre?," Perspektiven der Wirtschaftspolitik, Verein für Socialpolitik, vol. 1(1), pages 5-33, February.
    10. Bruno Frey & Stephan Meier, 2005. "Selfish and Indoctrinated Economists?," European Journal of Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 19(2), pages 165-171, April.
    11. Bruno S. Frey & Stephan Meier, "undated". "Two Concerns about Rational Choice: Indoctrination and Imperialism," IEW - Working Papers 104, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
    12. Altemeyer-Bartscher, Martin & Bershadskyy, Dmitri & Schreck, Philipp & Timme, Florian, 2017. "Endogenous institution formation in public good games: The effect of economic education," IWH Discussion Papers 29/2017, Halle Institute for Economic Research (IWH).
    13. repec:spr:jbecon:v:87:y:2017:i:8:d:10.1007_s11573-016-0842-4 is not listed on IDEAS
    14. Stephen Meier & Bruno Frey, 2004. "Do Business Students Make Good Citizens?," International Journal of the Economics of Business, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 11(2), pages 141-163.
    15. Bauman, Yoram & Rose, Elaina, 2009. "Why Are Economics Students More Selfish than the Rest?," IZA Discussion Papers 4625, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    16. Anna Olga Kuzminska, 2014. "Konsekwencje aktywizacji kategorii zwiazanych z wladza i pieniedzmi (The consequences of activation of categories associated with power and money)," Problemy Zarzadzania, University of Warsaw, Faculty of Management, vol. 12(45), pages 66-80.
    17. Cotten, Stephen J. & Ferraro, Paul J. & Vossler, Christian A., 2005. "Can public goods experiments inform policy? Interpreting results in the presence of confused subjects," MPRA Paper 60387, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    18. Michał Krawczyk, 2011. "Greed vs. Love of Science in Young Economists A Field Experiment," Ekonomia journal, Faculty of Economic Sciences, University of Warsaw, vol. 25.
    19. Ruske, René & Suttner, Johannes, 2012. "Wie (un-)fair sind Ökonomen? Neue empirische Evidenz zur Marktbewertung und Rationalität," CIW Discussion Papers 03/2012, University of Münster, Center for Interdisciplinary Economics (CIW).
    20. repec:noj:journl:v:38:y:2013:p:4 is not listed on IDEAS
    21. Sotaro Shibayama, 2012. "Conflict between entrepreneurship and open science, and the transition of scientific norms," The Journal of Technology Transfer, Springer, vol. 37(4), pages 508-531, August.

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