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Are Social Preferences Skin Deep? Dictators under Cognitive Load

  • Hauge, Karen Evelyn

    ()

    (Department of Economics, Oslo University)

  • Brekke, Kjell Arne

    ()

    (Department of Economics, Oslo University)

  • Johansson, Lars-Olof

    ()

    (Department of Psychology, University of Gothenburg)

  • Johansson-Stenman, Olof

    ()

    (Department of Economics, School of Business, Economics and Law, Göteborg University)

  • Svedsäter, Henrik

    ()

    (Organisational Behaviour, London Business School)

We study the impact of cognitive load in dictator games to test two conflicting views of moral behavior. Are social preferences skindeep in the sense that they are the result of humans’ cognitive reasoning while the natural instinct is selfish, or is rather the natural instinct to share fairly while our cognitive capacities are able to adjust moral principles in a selfserving manner? Some previous studies in more complex settings give conflicting answers, and to disentangle different possible mechanisms we use simple games. We study both charitable giving and the behavior of dictators under high and low cognitive load, where high cognitive load is assumed to reduce the impact of cognitive processes on behavior. In the dictator game we use both a give frame, where the dictator is given an amount and may share some or all of it to a partner, and a take frame, where dictators may take from an amount initially allocated to the partner. The results from four different studies indicate that the effect of cognitive load is small if at all existing.

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File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2077/20768
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Paper provided by University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers in Economics with number 371.

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Length: 18 pages
Date of creation: 03 Jul 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:hhs:gunwpe:0371
Contact details of provider: Postal: Department of Economics, School of Business, Economics and Law, University of Gothenburg, Box 640, SE 405 30 GÖTEBORG, Sweden
Phone: 031-773 10 00
Web page: http://www.handels.gu.se/econ/

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  1. Marco Piovesan & Erik Wengström, 2008. "Fast or Fair? A Study of Response Times," Discussion Papers 08-09, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
  2. Willinger, Marc & Ziegelmeyer, Anthony, 1999. "Framing and cooperation in public good games: an experiment with an interior solution," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 65(3), pages 323-328, December.
  3. Daniel J. Benjamin & Sebastian A. Brown & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2013. "Who Is ‘Behavioral’? Cognitive Ability And Anomalous Preferences," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 11(6), pages 1231-1255, December.
  4. Dominique Cappellettia & Werner Güth & Matteo Ploner, 2008. "Being of two minds: an ultimatum experiment investigating affective processes," Jena Economic Research Papers 2008-048, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena, Max-Planck-Institute of Economics.
  5. Jordi Brandts & Christiane Schwieren, 2007. "Frames and Games," UFAE and IAE Working Papers 695.07, Unitat de Fonaments de l'Anàlisi Econòmica (UAB) and Institut d'Anàlisi Econòmica (CSIC).
  6. Gert Cornelissen & Siegfried Dewitte & Luk Warlop, 2007. "Social value orientation as a moral intuition: Decision-making in the dictator game," Economics Working Papers 1028, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
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