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Ashamed to be Selfish

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  • David Dillenberger

    () (Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania)

  • Philipp Sadowski

    () (Department of Economics, Duke University)

Abstract

We study a two-stage choice problem, where alternatives are allocations between the decision maker (DM) and a passive recipient. The recipient observes choice behavior in stage two, while stage one choice is unobserved. Choosing selfishly in stage two, in the face of a fairer available alternative, may inflict shame on DM. DM has preferences over sets of alternatives that represent period two choices. We axiomatize a representation that identifies DM’s selfish ranking, her norm of fairness and shame. Altruism is the most prominent motive that can explain non-selfish choice. We identify a condition under which shame to be selfish can mimic altruism, when only stage-two choice is observed by the experimenter. An additional condition implies that the norm of fairness can be characterized as the Nash solution of a bargaining game induced by the second-stage choice problem. The representation is generalized to allow for finitely many recipients and applied to a simple strategic situation, a game of trust.

Suggested Citation

  • David Dillenberger & Philipp Sadowski, 2008. "Ashamed to be Selfish," PIER Working Paper Archive 08-037, Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania.
  • Handle: RePEc:pen:papers:08-037
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Zak, F., 2014. "Psychological Games in the Theory of Choice. II. Shame, Regret, Egoism and Altruism," Journal of the New Economic Association, New Economic Association, vol. 22(2), pages 12-40.
    2. Vadim Cherepanov & Tim Feddersen & Alvaro Sandroni, 2013. "Revealed preferences and aspirations in warm glow theory," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 54(3), pages 501-535, November.
    3. Saito, Kota, 2015. "Impure altruism and impure selfishness," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 158(PA), pages 336-370.
    4. Gustavo Adolfo Caballero Orozco, 2016. "Luck and Effort: Learning about Income from Friends and Neighbors," 2016 Papers pca706, Job Market Papers.
    5. Gorno, Leandro, 2016. "Additive representation for preferences over menus in finite choice settings," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(C), pages 41-47.
    6. Norio Takeoka, 2006. "Temptation, Certainty Effect, and Diminishing Self-Control," Levine's Bibliography 321307000000000507, UCLA Department of Economics.
    7. Daley, Brendan & Sadowski, Philipp, 2017. "Magical thinking: A representation result," Theoretical Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 12(2), May.
    8. Özgür Evren & Stefania Minardi, 2017. "Warm‐glow Giving and Freedom to be Selfish," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 127(603), pages 1381-1409, August.
    9. Leandro Gorno, 2010. "Additive representation for preferences over menus in finite choice settings," Working Papers 1292, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Econometric Research Program..

    More about this item

    Keywords

    selfishness; fairness; shame; altruism;

    JEL classification:

    • C78 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Bargaining Theory; Matching Theory
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • D64 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Altruism; Philanthropy; Intergenerational Transfers
    • D80 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - General
    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty

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