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Embezzlement and guilt aversion

Author

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  • Giuseppe Attanasi

    ()

  • Claire Rimbaud

    (GATE Lyon Saint-Étienne - Groupe d'analyse et de théorie économique - ENS Lyon - École normale supérieure - Lyon - UL2 - Université Lumière - Lyon 2 - UCBL - Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1 - Université de Lyon - UJM - Université Jean Monnet [Saint-Étienne] - Université de Lyon - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique)

  • Marie Claire Villeval

    () (GATE Lyon Saint-Étienne - Groupe d'analyse et de théorie économique - ENS Lyon - École normale supérieure - Lyon - UL2 - Université Lumière - Lyon 2 - UCBL - Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1 - Université de Lyon - UJM - Université Jean Monnet [Saint-Étienne] - Université de Lyon - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique)

Abstract

Psychological game theory can contribute to renew the analysis of unethical behavior by providing insights on the nature of the moral costs of dishonesty. We investigate the moral costs of embezzlement in situations where donors need intermediaries to transfer their donations to recipients and where donations can be embezzled before they reach the recipients. We design a novel three-player Embezzlement Mini-Game to study whether intermediaries in the laboratory suffer from guilt aversion and whether guilt aversion affects the decision to embezzle. We show that the proportion of guilt-averse intermediaries is the same irrespective of the direction of guilt and guilt aversion reduces embezzlement. Structural estimates indicate no difference in the effect of guilt aversion toward the donor and toward the recipient on intermediaries' behavior. This is striking as embezzlement affects the earnings of the recipient but not those of the donor. It shows that guilt aversion matters even when decisions have no direct monetary consequences. JEL code: C91

Suggested Citation

  • Giuseppe Attanasi & Claire Rimbaud & Marie Claire Villeval, 2019. "Embezzlement and guilt aversion," Post-Print halshs-02073561, HAL.
  • Handle: RePEc:hal:journl:halshs-02073561
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jebo.2019.02.002
    Note: View the original document on HAL open archive server: https://halshs.archives-ouvertes.fr/halshs-02073561
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    Cited by:

    1. Giuseppe Attanasi & Kene Boun My & Nikolaos Georgantzís & Miguel Ginés, 2019. "Strategic Ethics: Altruism without the Other-regarding Confound," GREDEG Working Papers 2019-13, Groupe de REcherche en Droit, Economie, Gestion (GREDEG CNRS), University of Nice Sophia Antipolis.
    2. Pierpaolo Battigalli & Martin Dufwenberg, 2019. "Psychological Game Theory," Working Papers 646, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.

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    Keywords

    Embezzlement; dishonesty; guilt aversion; psychological game theory; experiment;

    JEL classification:

    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior

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