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Moral Hypocrisy, Power and Social Preferences

Author

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  • Rustichini, Aldo

    () (University of Minnesota)

  • Villeval, Marie Claire

    () (CNRS, GATE)

Abstract

We show with a laboratory experiment that individuals adjust their moral principles to the situation and to their actions, just as much as they adjust their actions to their principles. We first elicit the individuals’ principles regarding the fairness and unfairness of allocations in three different scenarios (a Dictator game, an Ultimatum game, and a Trust game). One week later, the same individuals are invited to play those same games with monetary compensation. Finally in the same session we elicit again their principles regarding the fairness and unfairness of allocations in the same three scenarios. Our results show that individuals adjust abstract norms to fit the game, their role and the choices they made. First, norms that appear abstract and universal take into account the bargaining power of the two sides. The strong side bends the norm in its favor and the weak side agrees: Stated fairness is a compromise with power. Second, in most situations, individuals adjust the range of fair shares after playing the game for real money compared with their initial statement. Third, the discrepancy between hypothetical and real behavior is larger in games where real choices have no strategic consequence (Dictator game and second mover in Trust game) than in those where they do (Ultimatum game). Finally the adjustment of principles to actions is mainly the fact of individuals who behave more selfishly and who have a stronger bargaining power. The moral hypocrisy displayed (measured by the discrepancy between statements and actions chosen followed by an adjustment of principles to actions) appears produced by the attempt, not necessarily conscious, to strike a balance between self-image and immediate convenience.

Suggested Citation

  • Rustichini, Aldo & Villeval, Marie Claire, 2012. "Moral Hypocrisy, Power and Social Preferences," IZA Discussion Papers 6590, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp6590
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    Cited by:

    1. Erkut, Hande & Nosenzo, Daniele & Sefton, Martin, 2015. "Identifying social norms using coordination games: Spectators vs. stakeholders," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 130(C), pages 28-31.
    2. Gantner, Anita & Horn, Kristian & Kerschbamer, Rudolf, 2016. "Fair and efficient division through unanimity bargaining when claims are subjective," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 57(C), pages 56-73.
    3. Ubeda, Paloma, 2014. "The consistency of fairness rules: An experimental study," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 88-100.
    4. D'Adda, Giovanna & Drouvelis, Michalis & Nosenzo, Daniele, 2016. "Norm elicitation in within-subject designs: Testing for order effects," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 62(C), pages 1-7.
    5. Rodriguez-Lara, Ismael, 2016. "Equity and bargaining power in ultimatum games," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 130(C), pages 144-165.
    6. Schier, Uta K. & Ockenfels, Axel & Hofmann, Wilhelm, 2016. "Moral values and increasing stakes in a dictator game," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 56(C), pages 107-115.
    7. repec:eee:joepsy:v:65:y:2018:i:c:p:60-74 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Štěpán Veselý, 2015. "Elicitation of normative and fairness judgments: Do incentives matter?," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 10(2), pages 191-197, March.
    9. Kathrin Dengler-Roscher & Natalia Montinari & Marian Panganiban & Matteo Ploner & Benedikt Werner, 2015. "On the Malleability of Fairness Ideals: Order Effects in Partial and Impartial Allocation Tasks," Jena Economic Research Papers 2015-006, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    power; moral hypocrisy; fairness; social preferences; self-deception; self-image;

    JEL classification:

    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • C7 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory

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