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Revisiting a remedy against the chain of unkindness

Author

Listed:
  • Wendelin Schneder

    () (University of Paderborn)

  • Nina Lucia Stephan

    () (University of Paderborn)

Abstract

Previous experimental studies show that subjects who receive little in a dictator game, pass on less to a third person when they become dictators themselves. However, when subjects can write a letter to their dictator, they act more kindly. The prevailing explanation for this phenomenon is that letter writing helps them to emotionally ‘close the case’. Alternatively, being asked to write a letter may be seen as a signal that something is wrong with the dictator’s behavior and lead to less imitation of this behavior. We examine whether letter writing also helps to increase kindness when the second explanation is excluded by design. In our experiment, subjects face choices in different domains, so that imitation is not possible. Instead of deciding how to split money, the first decision consists in assigning an annoying work task (the unkind option) instead of an enjoyable one. We find that letter writing nevertheless increases giving in a subsequent dictator game, confirming the validity of letter writing as a remedy against the chain of unkindness.

Suggested Citation

  • Wendelin Schneder & Nina Lucia Stephan, 2018. "Revisiting a remedy against the chain of unkindness," Working Papers Dissertations 45, Paderborn University, Faculty of Business Administration and Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:pdn:dispap:45
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    File URL: http://groups.uni-paderborn.de/wp-wiwi/RePEc/pdf/dispap/DP45.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    experimental economics; chain of unkindness; emotional closure; cooling down;

    JEL classification:

    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making
    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles

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