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Sorting with shame in the laboratory

  • Ong, David

Trust is indispensable to fiduciary fields (e.g., credit rating), where experts exercise wide discretion on others behalf. Can the shame from scandal sort trustworthy people out of a fiduciary field? I tested for the possibility in a charitable contribution game where subjects could be "ungenerous" when unobserved. After establishing that "generosity" required a contribution of more than $6, subjects were given the choice of contributing either $5 publicly or $0-$10 privately. Almost all control subjects chose to contribute privately less than $2. The majority of treatment subjects, after being told the prediction that they were unlikely to contribute more than $2, if they contributed privately, contributed $5 publicly. This suggests that the mere belief that a subject would exploit the greater discretion and unobservability of a fiduciary-like position can deter entry into such a position. Thus, scandals that create such a belief could repel shame-sensitive people from that field -- possibly to the detriment of the field and the economy as a whole. The shame externality of a scandals on private judgments may also been seen in politically correct speech after demonstrated racial prejudice of others.

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Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 16523.

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Date of creation: 27 Oct 2008
Date of revision: 27 Jul 2009
Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:16523
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  1. Gary Charness & Martin Dufwenberg, 2004. "Promises and Partnership," Levine's Bibliography 122247000000000001, UCLA Department of Economics.
  2. Yaw Nyarko & Andrew Schotter, 2002. "An Experimental Study of Belief Learning Using Elicited Beliefs," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(3), pages 971-1005, May.
  3. Pierpaolo Battigalli & Martin Dufwenberg, 2005. "Dynamic Psychological Games," Working Papers 287, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.
  4. Dufwenberg, Martin & Gneezy, Uri, 2000. "Measuring Beliefs in an Experimental Lost Wallet Game," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 30(2), pages 163-182, February.
  5. Terrance Hurley & Jason Shogren, 2005. "An Experimental Comparison of Induced and Elicited Beliefs," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 30(2), pages 169-188, January.
  6. Pierpaolo Battigalli & Martin Dufwenberg, 2007. "Guilt in Games," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(2), pages 170-176, May.
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