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The Many Faces of Human Sociality: Uncovering the Distribution and Stability of Social Preferences

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Listed:
  • Bruhin, Adrian

    () (University of Lausanne)

  • Fehr, Ernst

    () (University of Zurich)

  • Schunk, Daniel

    () (University of Mainz)

Abstract

There is vast heterogeneity in the human willingness to weigh others' interests in decision making. This heterogeneity concerns the motivational intricacies as well as the strength of other-regarding behaviors, and raises the question how one can parsimoniously model and characterize heterogeneity across several dimensions of social preferences while still being able to predict behavior over time and across situations. We tackle this task with an experiment and a structural model of preferences that allows us to simultaneously estimate outcome-based and reciprocity-based social preferences. We find that non-selfish preferences are the rule rather than the exception. Neither at the level of the representative agent nor when we allow for several preference types do purely selfish types emerge in our sample. Instead, three temporally stable and qualitatively different other-regarding types emerge endogenously, i.e., without pre-specifying assumptions about the characteristics of types. When ahead, all three types value others' payoffs significantly more than when behind. The first type, which we denote as strongly altruistic type, is characterized by a relatively large weight on others' payoffs – even when behind – and moderate levels of reciprocity. The second type, denoted as moderately altruistic type, also puts positive weight on others' payoff, yet at a considerable lower level, and displays no positive reciprocity, while the third type is behindness averse, i.e., puts a large negative weight on others' payoffs when behind and behaves selfishly otherwise. We also find that there is an unambiguous and temporally stable assignment of individuals to types. In addition, we show that individual-specific estimates of preferences offer only very modest improvements in out-of-sample predictions compared to our three-type model. Thus, a parsimonious model with only three types captures the bulk of the information about subjects' social preferences.

Suggested Citation

  • Bruhin, Adrian & Fehr, Ernst & Schunk, Daniel, 2018. "The Many Faces of Human Sociality: Uncovering the Distribution and Stability of Social Preferences," IZA Discussion Papers 11815, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp11815
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    Cited by:

    1. Lacomba, Juan A. & Lagos, Francisco & Reuben, Ernesto & van Winden, Frans, 2017. "Decisiveness, peace, and inequality in games of conflict," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 63(C), pages 216-229.
    2. Dominik Rothenhaüsler & Nikolaus Schweizer & Nora Szech, 2016. "Guilt in Voting and Public Good Games," Working Papers 2016-026, Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group.
    3. Chalotte Saucet & Marie Claire Villeval, 2018. "Self Confidence Spillovers and Motivated Beliefs," Working Papers 1804, Groupe d'Analyse et de Théorie Economique Lyon St-Étienne (GATE Lyon St-Étienne), Université de Lyon.
    4. Charlotte Saucet & Marie Villeval, 2018. "Motivated Memory in Dictator Games," Working Papers halshs-01781335, HAL.
    5. Rothenhäusler, Dominik & Schweizer, Nikolaus & Szech, Nora, 2016. "Guilt in voting and public good games," Working Paper Series in Economics 99, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Department of Economics and Business Engineering.
    6. repec:eee:eecrev:v:101:y:2018:i:c:p:664-681 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Rudolf Kerschbamer & Daniel Muller, 2017. "Social preferences and political attitudes: An online experiment on a large heterogeneous sample," Working Papers 2017-16, Faculty of Economics and Statistics, University of Innsbruck.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    social preferences; heterogeneity; stability; finite mixture models;

    JEL classification:

    • C49 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods: Special Topics - - - Other
    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles

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