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Tradeoffs between Self-interest and Other-Regarding Preferences Cause Willpower Depletion

Author

Listed:
  • Hanna Fromell

    () (University of Nottingham, School of Economics)

  • Daniele Nosenzo

    () (University of Nottingham, School of Economics)

  • Trudy Owens

    () (University of Nottingham, School of Economics)

Abstract

In this paper we show that making choices that involve conflicts between self-interest and otherregarding concerns may deplete cognitive resources and willpower and thus reduce individuals' ability to exert self-control. In a lab experiment we use a series of modified dictator games to manipulate whether subjects are exposed to tradeoffs between their self-interest and the interest of others: in a Conflict treatment the option that maximizes the dictator's payoff always minimizes the recipient's payoff, whereas in the NoConflict treatment dictator’s and recipient’s payoffs are aligned. We then measure how decision-making in the dictator games affects subjects’ performance in a subsequent and unrelated task that requires exertion of willpower. We find that subjects in the Conflict treatment perform significantly worse than those in NoConflict. This effect is particularly marked for dictators who experienced a stronger conflict during the dictator games.

Suggested Citation

  • Hanna Fromell & Daniele Nosenzo & Trudy Owens, 2014. "Tradeoffs between Self-interest and Other-Regarding Preferences Cause Willpower Depletion," Discussion Papers 2014-14, The Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics, School of Economics, University of Nottingham.
  • Handle: RePEc:not:notcdx:2014-14
    as

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    File URL: https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/cedex/documents/papers/cedex-discussion-paper-2018-13.pdf
    File Function: Revised Version, November 2018
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Brice Corgnet & Antonio M. Espín & Roberto Hernán-González, 2015. "The cognitive basis of social behavior: cognitive reflection overrides antisocial but not always prosocial motives," Working Papers 15-04, Chapman University, Economic Science Institute.
    2. de Haan, Thomas & van Veldhuizen, Roel, 2015. "Willpower depletion and framing effects," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 117(C), pages 47-61.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    other-regarding preferences; willpower; self-control; depletion; dictator game; Stroop task.;

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