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Selfish in the End?:An Investigation of Consistency and Stability of individual Behavior


  • Brosig, Jeannette
  • Riechmann, Thomas
  • Weimann, Joachim


This paper puts three of the most prominent specifications of ‘other-regarding’ preferences to the experimental test, namely the theories developed by Charness and Rabin, by Fehr and Schmidt, and by Andreoni and Miller. In a series of experiments based on various dictator and prisoner’s dilemma games, we try to uncover which of these concepts, or the classical selfishapproach, is able to explain most of our experimental findings. The experiments are special with regard to two aspects: First, we investigate the consistency of individual behavior within and across different classes of games. Second, we analyze the stability of individual behavior over time by running the same experiments on the same subjects at several points in time. Our results demonstrate that in the first wave of experiments, all theories of other-regarding preferences explain a high share of individual decisions. Other-regarding preferences seem to wash out over time, however. In the final wave, it is the classical theory of selfish behaviorthat delivers the best explanation. Stable behavior over time is observed only for subjects, who behave strictly selfish. Most subjects behave consistently with regard to at least one of the theories within the same class of games, but are much less consistent across games.

Suggested Citation

  • Brosig, Jeannette & Riechmann, Thomas & Weimann, Joachim, 2007. "Selfish in the End?:An Investigation of Consistency and Stability of individual Behavior," MPRA Paper 2035, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:2035

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Gary Charness & Matthew Rabin, 2002. "Understanding Social Preferences with Simple Tests," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(3), pages 817-869.
    2. Ernst Fehr & Klaus M. Schmidt, 1999. "A Theory of Fairness, Competition, and Cooperation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(3), pages 817-868.
    3. Falk, Armin & Fischbacher, Urs, 2006. "A theory of reciprocity," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 54(2), pages 293-315, February.
    4. Kahneman, Daniel & Knetsch, Jack L & Thaler, Richard H, 1986. "Fairness and the Assumptions of Economics," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 59(4), pages 285-300, October.
    5. Urs Fischbacher & Simon G�chter, 2005. "Heterogeneous social preferences and the dynamics of free riding in public goods," IEW - Working Papers 261, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
    6. Gary E Bolton & Axel Ockenfels, 1997. "A Theory of Equity, Reciprocity, and Competition," Levine's Working Paper Archive 1889, David K. Levine.
    7. Andreoni,J. & Castillo,M. & Petrie,R., 2000. "What do bargainers' preferences look like? : exploring a convex ultimatum game," Working papers 25, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
    8. Mark Isaac, R. & McCue, Kenneth F. & Plott, Charles R., 1985. "Public goods provision in an experimental environment," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 26(1), pages 51-74, February.
    9. Dufwenberg, Martin & Kirchsteiger, Georg, 2004. "A theory of sequential reciprocity," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 47(2), pages 268-298, May.
    10. Blanco, Mariana & Engelmann, Dirk & Normann, Hans Theo, 2011. "A within-subject analysis of other-regarding preferences," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 72(2), pages 321-338, June.
    11. Axel Ockenfels & Gary E. Bolton, 2000. "ERC: A Theory of Equity, Reciprocity, and Competition," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(1), pages 166-193, March.
    12. Forsythe Robert & Horowitz Joel L. & Savin N. E. & Sefton Martin, 1994. "Fairness in Simple Bargaining Experiments," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 6(3), pages 347-369, May.
    13. Geanakoplos, John & Pearce, David & Stacchetti, Ennio, 1989. "Psychological games and sequential rationality," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 1(1), pages 60-79, March.
    14. James Andreoni & John Miller, 2002. "Giving According to GARP: An Experimental Test of the Consistency of Preferences for Altruism," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(2), pages 737-753, March.
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    individual preferences; consistency; stability; experimental economics;

    JEL classification:

    • C90 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - General
    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • C72 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Noncooperative Games

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