IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/mpg/wpaper/2010_27.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

At the Mercy of the Prisoner Next Door. Using an Experimental Measure of Selfishness as a Criminological Tool

Author

Listed:
  • Thorsten Chmura

    (University of Bonn)

  • Christoph Engel

    () (Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods, Bonn)

  • Markus Englerth

    () (Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods, Bonn)

  • Thomas Pitz

    () (Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods, Bonn)

Abstract

Do criminals maximise money? Are criminals more or less selfish than the average subject? Can prisons apply measures that reduce the degree of selfishness of their inmates? Using a tried and tested tool from experimental economics, we cast new light on these old criminological questions. In a standard dictator game, prisoners give a substantial amount, which calls for more refined versions of utility in rational choice theories of crime. Prisoners do not give less than average subjects, not even than subjects from other closely knit communities. This speaks against the idea that people commit crimes because they are excessively selfish. Finally those who receive better marks at prison school give more, as do those who improve their marks over time. This suggests that this correctional intervention also reduces selfishness.

Suggested Citation

  • Thorsten Chmura & Christoph Engel & Markus Englerth & Thomas Pitz, 2010. "At the Mercy of the Prisoner Next Door. Using an Experimental Measure of Selfishness as a Criminological Tool," Discussion Paper Series of the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods 2010_27, Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods.
  • Handle: RePEc:mpg:wpaper:2010_27
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.coll.mpg.de/pdf_dat/2010_27online.pdf
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Hoffman Elizabeth & McCabe Kevin & Shachat Keith & Smith Vernon, 1994. "Preferences, Property Rights, and Anonymity in Bargaining Games," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 7(3), pages 346-380, November.
    2. Dirk Engelmann & Martin Strobel, 2004. "Inequality Aversion, Efficiency, and Maximin Preferences in Simple Distribution Experiments," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(4), pages 857-869, September.
    3. Antoni Bosch-Domènech & Rosemarie Nagel & Juan V. Sánchez-Andrés, 2009. "Prosocial Capabilities in Alzheimer's Patients," Journals of Gerontology: Series B, Gerontological Society of America, vol. 65(1), pages 119-128.
    4. Robert Cooter, 1998. "Expressive Law and Economics," CESifo Working Paper Series 161, CESifo Group Munich.
    5. Takezawa, Masanori & Gummerum, Michaela & Keller, Monika, 2006. "A stage for the rational tail of the emotional dog: Roles of moral reasoning in group decision making," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 27(1), pages 117-139, February.
    6. Gary Charness & Matthew Rabin, 2002. "Understanding Social Preferences with Simple Tests," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(3), pages 817-869.
    7. Chaim Fershtman & Uri Gneezy, 2001. "Discrimination in a Segmented Society: An Experimental Approach," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(1), pages 351-377.
    8. Cooter, Robert, 1998. "Expressive Law and Economics," Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics, Working Paper Series qt3w34j60j, Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics.
    9. James Andreoni, 1995. "Warm-Glow versus Cold-Prickle: The Effects of Positive and Negative Framing on Cooperation in Experiments," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 110(1), pages 1-21.
    10. Henrich, Joseph & Boyd, Robert & Bowles, Samuel & Camerer, Colin & Fehr, Ernst & Gintis, Herbert (ed.), 2004. "Foundations of Human Sociality: Economic Experiments and Ethnographic Evidence from Fifteen Small-Scale Societies," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199262052.
    11. Ernst Fehr & Klaus M. Schmidt, 1999. "A Theory of Fairness, Competition, and Cooperation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(3), pages 817-868.
    12. Allen McDowell, 2003. "From the help desk: hurdle models," Stata Journal, StataCorp LP, vol. 3(2), pages 178-184, June.
    13. Stephen Leider & Markus M. Möbius & Tanya Rosenblat & Quoc-Anh Do, 2010. "What Do We Expect from Our Friends?," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 8(1), pages 120-138, March.
    14. Christoph Engel, 2011. "Dictator games: a meta study," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 14(4), pages 583-610, November.
    15. Håkan J. Holm & Anders Danielson, 2005. "Tropic Trust Versus Nordic Trust: Experimental Evidence From Tanzania And Sweden," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 115(503), pages 505-532, April.
    16. Gurven, Michael & Zanolini, Arianna & Schniter, Eric, 2008. "Culture sometimes matters: Intra-cultural variation in pro-social behavior among Tsimane Amerindians," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 67(3-4), pages 587-607, September.
    17. Irving Piliavin & Rosemary Gartner & Craig Thornton & Ross L. Matsueda, 1986. "Crime, Deterrence, and Rational Choice," Mathematica Policy Research Reports 108e576df4ff4e768e3b2bc8b, Mathematica Policy Research.
    18. Clare Anderson & David L. Dickinson, 2009. "Bargaining and Trust: The Effects of 36hr Total Sleep Deprivation on Socially Interactive Decisions," Working Papers 09-01, Department of Economics, Appalachian State University.
    19. John A. List, 2007. "On the Interpretation of Giving in Dictator Games," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 115, pages 482-493.
    20. Cooter, Robert, 1998. "Expressive Law and Economics," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 27(2), pages 585-608, June.
    21. Gary S. Becker, 1974. "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," NBER Chapters,in: Essays in the Economics of Crime and Punishment, pages 1-54 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    22. David P. Farrington, 2003. "A Short History of Randomized Experiments in Criminology," Evaluation Review, , vol. 27(3), pages 218-227, June.
    23. Nicholas Bardsley, 2008. "Dictator game giving: altruism or artefact?," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 11(2), pages 122-133, June.
    24. Hoffman, Elizabeth & McCabe, Kevin & Smith, Vernon L, 1996. "Social Distance and Other-Regarding Behavior in Dictator Games," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(3), pages 653-660, June.
    25. Kahneman, Daniel & Knetsch, Jack L & Thaler, Richard H, 1986. "Fairness and the Assumptions of Economics," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 59(4), pages 285-300, October.
    26. 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.
    27. Cragg, John G, 1971. "Some Statistical Models for Limited Dependent Variables with Application to the Demand for Durable Goods," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 39(5), pages 829-844, September.
    28. Michael Gurven, 2004. "Economic Games Among the Amazonian Tsimane: Exploring the Roles of Market Access, Costs of Giving, and Cooperation on Pro-Social Game Behavior," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 7(1), pages 5-24, February.
    29. Houser, Daniel & Schunk, Daniel, 2009. "Social environments with competitive pressure: Gender effects in the decisions of German schoolchildren," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 30(4), pages 634-641, August.
    30. Joseph Henrich & Robert Boyd & Samuel Bowles & Colin Camerer & Ernst Fehr & Herbert Gintis & Richard McElreath & Michael Alvard & Abigail Barr & Jean Ensminger & Kim Hill & Francisco Gil-White & Micha, 2001. "Economic Man in Cross-Cultural Perspective: Behavioral Experiments in Fifteen Small-Scale Societies," Working Papers 01-11-063, Santa Fe Institute.
    31. James Andreoni & John Miller, 2002. "Giving According to GARP: An Experimental Test of the Consistency of Preferences for Altruism," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(2), pages 737-753, March.
    32. Forsythe Robert & Horowitz Joel L. & Savin N. E. & Sefton Martin, 1994. "Fairness in Simple Bargaining Experiments," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 6(3), pages 347-369, May.
    33. 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.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

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


    Cited by:

    1. Khadjavi, Menusch & Lange, Andreas, 2013. "Prisoners and their dilemma," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 92(C), pages 163-175.
    2. Geerling, Wayne & Magee, Gary B. & Brooks, Robert, 2015. "Cooperation, defection and resistance in Nazi Germany," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 58(C), pages 125-139.
    3. Annamaria Nese & Arturo Palomba & Patrizia Sbriglia & Maurizio Scudiero, 2013. "Third party punishment and criminal behavior: an experiment with the Italian Camorra prison inmates," Economics Bulletin, AccessEcon, vol. 33(3), pages 1875-1884.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    experiment; Crime; Prison; Dictator Game; Hurdle Model;

    JEL classification:

    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law
    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • K14 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law - - - Criminal Law
    • C34 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Multiple or Simultaneous Equation Models; Multiple Variables - - - Truncated and Censored Models; Switching Regression Models

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    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:mpg:wpaper:2010_27. 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: (Marc Martin) or (Rebekah McClure). General contact details of provider: http://edirc.repec.org/data/mppggde.html .

    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.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with 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.