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What Do We Expect from Our Friends?

  • Leider, Stephen
  • Mobius, Markus
  • Rosenblat, Tanya
  • Do, Quoc-Ahn

We conduct a field experiment in a large real-world social network to examine how subjects expect to be treated by their friends and by strangers who make allocation decisions in modified dictator games. Although recipients' beliefs accurately account for the extent to which friends will choose more generous allocations than strangers (i.e., directed altruism), recipients are not able to anticipate individual differences in the baseline altruism of allocators (measured by giving to an unnamed recipient, which is predictive of generosity toward named recipients). Recipients who are direct friends with the allocator, or even recipients with many common friends, are no more accurate in recognizing intrinsically altruistic allocators. Recipient beliefs are significantly less accurate than the predictions of an econometrician who knows the allocator's demographic characteristics and social distance, suggesting recipients do not have information on unobservable characteristics of the allocator.

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Paper provided by Iowa State University, Department of Economics in its series Staff General Research Papers Archive with number 32103.

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Date of creation: 16 Nov 2010
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published in Journal of the European Economic Association, March 2010, vol. 8 no. 1, pp. 120-138
Handle: RePEc:isu:genres:32103
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Iowa State University, Dept. of Economics, 260 Heady Hall, Ames, IA 50011-1070

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  19. Andreoni, James, 1990. "Impure Altruism and Donations to Public Goods: A Theory of Warm-Glow Giving?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 100(401), pages 464-77, June.
  20. Rosenblat, Tanya & Mobius, Markus, 2009. "Directed Altruism and Enforced Reciprocity in Social Networks," Staff General Research Papers Archive 13025, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
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