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Reconciling Pro-Social vs. Selfish Behavior - Evidence for the Role of Self-Control

  • Martinsson, Peter


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

  • Myrseth, Kristian Ove R.


    (ESMT European School of Management and Technology)

  • Wollbrant, Conny


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

We test the proposition that individuals may experience a self-control conflict between short-term temptation to be selfish and better judgment to act pro-socially. Using a dictator game and a public goods game, we manipulated the likelihood that individuals identified self-control conflict, and we measured their trait ability to implement self-control strategies. Consistent with our hypothesis, we find that trait self-control exhibits a positive and significant correlation with pro-social behavior in the treatment that raises likelihood of conflict identification, but not in the treatment that reduces likelihood of conflict identification.

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Paper provided by University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers in Economics with number 445.

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Length: 23 pages
Date of creation: 10 May 2010
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published as Martinsson, Peter, Kristian Ove R. Myrseth and Conny Wollbrant, 'Reconciling Pro-Social vs. Selfish Behavior - Evidence for the Role of Self-Control' in Judgment and Decision Making, 2012, pages 304-315.
Handle: RePEc:hhs:gunwpe:0445
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:

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  1. H. M. Shefrin & Richard Thaler, 1977. "An Economic Theory of Self-Control," NBER Working Papers 0208, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Ariely, Dan & Bracha, Anat & Meier, Stephan, 2007. "Doing Good or Doing Well? Image Motivation and Monetary Incentives in Behaving Prosocially," IZA Discussion Papers 2968, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  3. Laibson, David I., 1997. "Golden Eggs and Hyperbolic Discounting," Scholarly Articles 4481499, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  4. Nicholas Burger & Gary Charness & John Lynham, 2008. "Three Field Experiments on Procrastination and Willpower," Levine's Working Paper Archive 122247000000002399, David K. Levine.
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