IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Whose impartiality? An experimental study of veiled stakeholders, impartial spectators and ideal observers


  • Fernando Aguiar

    () (Spanish Council for Scientific Research (IESA-CSIC))

  • Alice Becker

    () (Max Planck Institute for Economics, Jena)

  • Luis Miller

    (Nuffield Centre for Experimental Social Sciences, University of Oxford)


This article defines in a precise manner three different mechanisms to achieve impartiality in distributive justice and studies them experimentally. We consider a first-person procedure, the Rawlsian veil of ignorance, and two third-party procedures, the impartial spectator and the ideal observer. As a result, we find striking differences in the chosen outcome distributions by the three methods. Ideal observers that do not have a stake in the allocation problem nor information about their position in society propose significantly more egalitarian distributions than veiled stakeholders or impartial spectators. Risk preferences seem to explain why participants that have a stake in the final allocation propose less egalitarian distributions. Impartial spectators that are informed about their position in society tend to favor stakeholders holding the same position.

Suggested Citation

  • Fernando Aguiar & Alice Becker & Luis Miller, 2010. "Whose impartiality? An experimental study of veiled stakeholders, impartial spectators and ideal observers," Jena Economic Research Papers 2010-040, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena.
  • Handle: RePEc:jrp:jrpwrp:2010-040

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Charness, Gary & Dufwenberg, Martin, 2003. "Promises & Partnership," Research Papers in Economics 2003:3, Stockholm University, Department of Economics.
    2. Ellingsen, Tore & Johannesson, Magnus & Tjøtta, Sigve & Torsvik, Gaute, 2010. "Testing guilt aversion," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 68(1), pages 95-107, January.
    3. Linda Babcock & George Loewenstein, 1997. "Explaining Bargaining Impasse: The Role of Self-Serving Biases," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 11(1), pages 109-126, Winter.
    4. Jeannette Brosig & Joachim Weimann & Axel Ockenfels, 2003. "The Effect of Communication Media on Cooperation," German Economic Review, Verein für Socialpolitik, vol. 4(2), pages 217-241, May.
    5. Carsten Schmidt & Ro'i Zultan, 2005. "The Uncontrolled Social Utility Hypothesis Revisited," Economics Bulletin, AccessEcon, vol. 3(33), pages 1-7.
    6. Buchner, Susanne & Coricelli, Giorgio & Greiner, Ben, 2007. "Self-centered and other-regarding behavior in the solidarity game," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 62(2), pages 293-303, February.
    7. Frohlich, Norman & Oppenheimer, Joe, 1998. "Some consequences of e-mail vs. face-to-face communication in experiment," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 35(3), pages 389-403, April.
    8. Ronald Bosman & Heike Hennig-Schmidt & Frans Winden, 2006. "Exploring group decision making in a power-to-take experiment," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 9(1), pages 35-51, April.
    9. Simon Gächter & Arno Riedl, 2005. "Moral Property Rights in Bargaining with Infeasible Claims," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 51(2), pages 249-263, February.
    10. Krupka, Erin & Weber, Roberto A., 2009. "The focusing and informational effects of norms on pro-social behavior," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 30(3), pages 307-320, June.
    11. Gary Charness & Martin Dufwenberg, 2006. "Promises and Partnership," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 74(6), pages 1579-1601, November.
    12. Loewenstein, George, et al, 1993. "Self-Serving Assessments of Fairness and Pretrial Bargaining," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 22(1), pages 135-159, January.
    13. Babcock, Linda, et al, 1995. "Biased Judgments of Fairness in Bargaining," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(5), pages 1337-1343, December.
    14. James Konow, 2000. "Fair Shares: Accountability and Cognitive Dissonance in Allocation Decisions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(4), pages 1072-1091, September.
    15. Selten, Reinhard & Ockenfels, Axel, 1998. "An experimental solidarity game," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 34(4), pages 517-539, March.
    16. Christoph Vanberg, 2008. "Why Do People Keep Their Promises? An Experimental Test of Two Explanations -super-1," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 76(6), pages 1467-1480, November.
    17. Daniel J. Benjamin & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2009. "Thin-Slice Forecasts of Gubernatorial Elections," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 91(3), pages 523-536, August.
    18. Gary E. Bolton & Rami Zwick & Elena Katok, 1998. "Dictator game giving: Rules of fairness versus acts of kindness," International Journal of Game Theory, Springer;Game Theory Society, vol. 27(2), pages 269-299.
    19. Jenni, Karen E & Loewenstein, George, 1997. "Explaining the "Identifiable Victim Effect."," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 14(3), pages 235-257, May-June.
    20. Greiner, Ben, 2004. "An Online Recruitment System for Economic Experiments," MPRA Paper 13513, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    21. Chakravarty, Surajeet & Fonseca, Miguel A., 2010. "Social identity, group composition and public good provision: an experimental study," MPRA Paper 23115, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    22. Austen-Smith, David & Banks, Jeffrey S., 2000. "Cheap Talk and Burned Money," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 91(1), pages 1-16, March.
    23. Eckel, Catherine C. & Grossman, Philip J., 2005. "Managing diversity by creating team identity," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 58(3), pages 371-392, November.
    24. Bohnet, Iris & Frey, Bruno S., 1999. "The sound of silence in prisoner's dilemma and dictator games," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 38(1), pages 43-57, January.
    25. Crawford, Vincent P & Sobel, Joel, 1982. "Strategic Information Transmission," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(6), pages 1431-1451, November.
    26. Yan Chen & Sherry Xin Li, 2009. "Group Identity and Social Preferences," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(1), pages 431-457, March.
    27. Pierpaolo Battigalli & Martin Dufwenberg, 2007. "Guilt in Games," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(2), pages 170-176, May.
    28. Charness, Gary & Gneezy, Uri, 2008. "What's in a name? Anonymity and social distance in dictator and ultimatum games," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 68(1), pages 29-35, October.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Cettolin, E. & Riedl, A.M., 2013. "Justice under uncertainty," Research Memorandum 036, Maastricht University, Graduate School of Business and Economics (GSBE).
    2. Mollerstrom, Johanna & Reme, Bjørn-Atle & Sørensen, Erik Ø., 2015. "Luck, choice and responsibility — An experimental study of fairness views," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 131(C), pages 33-40.

    More about this item


    impartiality; veil of ignorance; impartial spectator; distributive justice;

    JEL classification:

    • C72 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Noncooperative Games
    • C92 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Group Behavior
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • A13 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Relation of Economics to Social Values

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:jrp:jrpwrp:2010-040. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Markus Pasche). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.