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The Social Egoist

  • Boschini, Anne


    (Dept. of Economics, Stockholm University)

  • Muren, Astri


    (Dept. of Economics, Stockholm University)

  • Persson, Mats


    (Institute for International Economic Studies, Stockholm University)

People cooperate more in one-shot interactions than can be explained by standard textbook preferences. We discuss a set of non-standard preferences that can accommodate such behavior. They are social, in the sense of incorporating the payoffs of other persons; they are also norm-based, in the sense of taking into account the behavior of other persons. We show theoretically that, with such preferences, a Nash equilibrium with a strictly positive cooperation rate can exist. We use experimental data on within-subject decisions to show that such preferences are empirically plausible. The data show that, in addition to the well-known types (egoist, altruist, reciprocator), there is an important group: the social egoist. Such individuals care for people who have cooperated, but ignore people who have broken the implicit cooperation norm in society. The social egoists, who turn out to be different from “conditional cooperators”, account for one third of the observations in our experiment.

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Paper provided by Stockholm University, Department of Economics in its series Research Papers in Economics with number 2013:14.

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Length: 42 pages
Date of creation: 10 Oct 2013
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:hhs:sunrpe:2013_0014
Contact details of provider: Postal: Department of Economics, Stockholm, S-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden
Phone: +46 8 16 20 00
Fax: +46 8 16 14 25
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  1. James Andreoni & B. Douglas Bernheim, 2007. "Social Image and the 50-50 Norm: A Theoretical and Experimental Analysis of Audience Effects," Discussion Papers 07-030, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
  2. Tore Ellingsen & Magnus Johannesson, 2008. "Pride and Prejudice: The Human Side of Incentive Theory," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(3), pages 990-1008, June.
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  4. Margin Dufwenberg & Georg Kirchsteiger, 2001. "A Theory of Sequential Reciprocity," Levine's Working Paper Archive 563824000000000090, David K. Levine.
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  7. Matthew Rabin., 1992. "Incorporating Fairness into Game Theory and Economics," Economics Working Papers 92-199, University of California at Berkeley.
  8. Boschini, Anne & Muren, Astri & Persson, Mats, 2011. "Men among men do not take norm enforcement seriously," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 40(5), pages 523-529.
  9. Charness, Gary B & Rabin, Matthew, 2001. "Understanding Social Preferences With Simple Tests," University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series qt0dc3k4m5, Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara.
  10. Ernst Fehr & Urs Fischbacher, 2004. "Third-party punishment and social norms," Experimental 0409002, EconWPA.
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  13. James Andreoni & John Miller, 2002. "Giving According to GARP: An Experimental Test of the Consistency of Preferences for Altruism," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(2), pages 737-753, March.
  14. Elinor Ostrom, 2000. "Collective Action and the Evolution of Social Norms," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 14(3), pages 137-158, Summer.
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  16. Mathias Erlei, 2003. "Heterogeneous Social Preferences," TUC Working Papers in Economics 0001, Abteilung für Volkswirtschaftslehre, Technische Universität Clausthal (Department of Economics, Technical University Clausthal), revised Jun 2004.
  17. Roland Bénabou & Jean Tirole, 2011. "Identity, Morals, and Taboos: Beliefs as Assets," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(2), pages 805-855.
  18. Palfrey, Thomas R. & Rosenthal, Howard, 1988. "Private incentives in social dilemmas : The effects of incomplete information and altruism," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 35(3), pages 309-332, April.
  19. Fudenberg, Drew & Dreber, Anna & Rand, David G. & Nowak, Martin, 2008. "Winners Don't Punish," Scholarly Articles 2252594, Harvard University Department of Economics.
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