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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
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    2. Menusch Khadjavi, 2018. "Deterrence works for criminals," European Journal of Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 46(1), pages 165-178, August.
    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.
    4. 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.
    5. Balafoutas, Loukas & García-Gallego, Aurora & Georgantzis, Nikolaos & Jaber-Lopez, Tarek & Mitrokostas, Evangelos, 2020. "Rehabilitation and social behavior: Experiments in prison," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 119(C), pages 148-171.
    6. Khadjavi, Menusch & Lange, Andreas, 2013. "Prisoners and their dilemma," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 92(C), pages 163-175.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    experiment; Crime; Prison; Dictator Game; Hurdle Model;
    All these keywords.

    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

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