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Endogenouse Social Preferences

  • Jeffrey Carpenter

    ()

A long-standing discussion in economics has developed around the issue of whether institutions (specifically markets) affect people’ social preferences. One theory posits that markets force people to interact repeatedly, and in doing do reduce anonymity, curtail opportunistic behavior, and make agents more socially minded. The opposing view contends that markets are alienating because they make interactions more (not less) anonymous and competition erodes peoples’ preferences to engage in selfless, group-beneficial acts. This paper presents the results of an experiment designed to quantify the extent to which different aspects of markets affect peoples’ social preferences by varying the level of anonymity, the incentive to reciprocate friendly acts, and the degree of competition. We find that reducing anonymity does make people more social, but mostly because reducing anonymity reduces peoples’ ability to engage in opportunistic acts. More importantly, we find that market competition erodes social preferences through two mechanisms. First, market competition encourages opportunistic behavior which creates a less friendly atmosphere and second, controlling for the first effect the market institution itself decreases the other-regardingness of our participants.

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File URL: http://www.middlebury.edu/services/econ/repec/mdl/ancoec/0209.pdf
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Paper provided by Middlebury College, Department of Economics in its series Middlebury College Working Paper Series with number 0209.

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Length: 31 pages
Date of creation: Jun 2002
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:mdl:mdlpap:0209
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  1. Harrison, Glenn W & Hirshleifer, Jack, 1989. "An Experimental Evaluation of Weakest Link/Best Shot Models of Public Goods," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(1), pages 201-25, February.
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  9. James Andreoni, 2001. "Giving According to GARP," Theory workshop papers 339, UCLA Department of Economics.
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  11. Samuel Bowles, 1998. "Endogenous Preferences: The Cultural Consequences of Markets and Other Economic Institutions," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(1), pages 75-111, March.
  12. Carpenter, Jeffrey P., 2002. "Information, fairness, and reciprocity in the best shot game," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 75(2), pages 243-248, April.
  13. Axel Ockenfels & Gary E. Bolton, 2000. "ERC: A Theory of Equity, Reciprocity, and Competition," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(1), pages 166-193, March.
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  16. Colin F. Camerer & Richard H. Thaler, 1995. "Anomalies: Ultimatums, Dictators and Manners," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 9(2), pages 209-219, Spring.
  17. Carpenter, Jeffrey P., 2003. "Is fairness used instrumentally? Evidence from sequential bargaining," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 24(4), pages 467-489, August.
  18. Hoffman, Elizabeth & McCabe, Kevin A & Smith, Vernon L, 1996. "On Expectations and the Monetary Stakes in Ultimatum Games," International Journal of Game Theory, Springer, vol. 25(3), pages 289-301.
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