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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
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

Phone: +1 515.294.6741
Fax: +1 515.294.0221
Web page: http://www.econ.iastate.edu
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  1. Roland Benabou & Jean Tirole, 2004. "Incentives and Prosocial Behavior," Working Papers 137, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Discussion Papers in Economics.
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  4. Fernando Aguiar & Pablo Brañas-Garza & Ramón Cobo-Reyes & Natalia Jiménez & Luis M. Miller, 2006. "Gender based prescriptions: evidence for altruism," ThE Papers 06/11, Department of Economic Theory and Economic History of the University of Granada..
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  15. Antoni Calvó-Armengol & Matthew O. Jackson, 2004. "The Effects of Social Networks on Employment and Inequality," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(3), pages 426-454, June.
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  17. Neel Rao & Markus M. Möbius & Tanya Rosenblat, 2007. "Social networks and vaccination decisions," Working Papers 07-12, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
  18. Huck, Steffen & Weizsacker, Georg, 2002. "Do players correctly estimate what others do? : Evidence of conservatism in beliefs," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 47(1), pages 71-85, January.
  19. Chaim Fershtman & Uri Gneezy, 2001. "Discrimination in a Segmented Society: An Experimental Approach," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(1), pages 351-377.
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