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How to be kind? Outcomes versus Intentions as Determinants of Fairness

  • Luca Stanca


This paper presents an experimental analysis of the role of out comes and intentions for fair behavior. We consider a symmetric version of the gift-exchange game in a 2x2 design with two treatment variables: intentionality (¯rst mover's choice is either intentional or randomly determined) and outcome (¯rst mover's choice is either costly or free, ie compensated by the experimenter). The four treatments differ with respect to the presence-absence of intentionality and cost for the ¯rst mover, whereas the outcome of the ¯rst mover's action for the second mover's payo® is kept constant across treatments. The results indicate that intentions do not matter for fair behavior, whereas outcomes do matter. In particular, the effect of outcomes is due to concerns for distributional fairness, whereas there is no evidence of an intention-based role for outcomes through signalling kindness.

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Paper provided by University of Milano-Bicocca, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 145.

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Length: 25 pages
Date of creation: Jul 2008
Date of revision: Jul 2008
Handle: RePEc:mib:wpaper:145
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  1. Stanca, Luca, 2010. "How to be kind? Outcomes versus intentions as determinants of fairness," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 106(1), pages 19-21, January.
  2. Gary E. Bolton & Axel Ockenfels, 2002. "A stress test of fairness measures in models of social utility," Papers on Strategic Interaction 2002-29, Max Planck Institute of Economics, Strategic Interaction Group.
  3. Andreoni, James & Brown, Paul M. & Vesterlund, Lise, 2002. "What Makes an Allocation Fair? Some Experimental Evidence," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 40(1), pages 1-24, July.
  4. Blount, Sally, 1995. "When Social Outcomes Aren't Fair: The Effect of Causal Attributions on Preferences," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 63(2), pages 131-144, August.
  5. Offerman, Theo, 2002. "Hurting hurts more than helping helps," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 46(8), pages 1423-1437, September.
  6. Ernst Fehr & Georg Kirchsteiger & Arno Riedl, 1993. "Does Fairness Prevent Market Clearing? An Experimental Investigation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 108(2), pages 437-459.
  7. Armin Falk & Urs Fischbacher, 2001. "A Theory of Reciprocity," CESifo Working Paper Series 457, CESifo Group Munich.
  8. Ernst Fehr & Simon Gaechter, . "Fairness and Retaliation: The Economics of Reciprocitys," IEW - Working Papers 040, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  9. Gachter, Simon & Falk, Armin, 2002. " Reputation and Reciprocity: Consequences for the Labour Relation," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 104(1), pages 1-26.
  10. Brandts, Jordi & Sola, Carles, 2001. "Reference Points and Negative Reciprocity in Simple Sequential Games," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 36(2), pages 138-157, August.
  11. M. Rabin, 2001. "Incorporating Fairness into Game Theory and Economics," Levine's Working Paper Archive 511, David K. Levine.
  12. 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.
  13. Dufwenberg, M. & Kirchsteiger, G., 1998. "A Theory of Sequential Reciprocity," Discussion Paper 1998-37, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
  14. McCabe, Kevin A. & Rigdon, Mary L. & Smith, Vernon L., 2003. "Positive reciprocity and intentions in trust games," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 52(2), pages 267-275, October.
  15. Fischbacher, Urs & Gachter, Simon & Fehr, Ernst, 2001. "Are people conditionally cooperative? Evidence from a public goods experiment," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 71(3), pages 397-404, June.
  16. Bolton, G.E. & Brandts, J. & Ockenfels, A., 1997. "Measuring Motivations for the Reciprocal Responses Observed in a Simple Dilemma Game," UFAE and IAE Working Papers 400.97, Unitat de Fonaments de l'Anàlisi Econòmica (UAB) and Institut d'Anàlisi Econòmica (CSIC).
  17. Charness, Gary & Rabin, Matthew, 2002. "Understanding Social Preferences with Simple Tests," Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt3d04q5sm, Department of Economics, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
  18. Gary E. Bolton & Jordi Brandts & Axel Ockenfels, 2000. "Fair Procedures. Evidence from Games Involving Lotteries," UFAE and IAE Working Papers 483.01, Unitat de Fonaments de l'Anàlisi Econòmica (UAB) and Institut d'Anàlisi Econòmica (CSIC).
  19. Matthias Sutter, 2007. "Outcomes versus intentions. on the nature of fair behavior and its development with age," Artefactual Field Experiments 00109, The Field Experiments Website.
  20. Fehr, Ernst & Schmidt, Klaus M., 1998. "A Theory of Fairness, Competition and Cooperation," CEPR Discussion Papers 1812, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  21. Urs Fischbacher, 2007. "z-Tree: Zurich toolbox for ready-made economic experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 10(2), pages 171-178, June.
  22. Nelson, William Jr., 2002. "Equity or intention: it is the thought that counts," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 48(4), pages 423-430, August.
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