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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.

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Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 2035.

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Date of creation: Feb 2007
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Publication status: Published in FEMM Working Paper Series 05/2007 (2007): pp. 1-33
Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:2035
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  1. Margin Dufwenberg & Georg Kirchsteiger, 2001. "A Theory of Sequential Reciprocity," Levine's Working Paper Archive 563824000000000090, David K. Levine.
  2. Charness, Gary & Rabin, Matthew, 2001. "Understanding Social Preferences with Simple Tests," Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt4qz9k8vg, Department of Economics, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
  3. Urs Fischbacher & Simon Gaechter, 2006. "Heterogeneous social preferences and the dynamics of free riding in public goods," Discussion Papers 2006-01, The Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics, School of Economics, University of Nottingham.
  4. 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.
  5. Falk, Armin & Fischbacher, Urs, 2001. "A Theory of Reciprocity," CEPR Discussion Papers 3014, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  6. Gary E Bolton & Axel Ockenfels, 1997. "A Theory of Equity, Reciprocity, and Competition," Levine's Working Paper Archive 1889, David K. Levine.
  7. 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.
  8. Geanakoplos, John & Pearce, David & Stacchetti, Ennio, 1989. "Psychological games and sequential rationality," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 1(1), pages 60-79, March.
  9. 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 S285-300, October.
  10. 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.
  11. Blanco, Mariana & Engelmann, Dirk & Normann, Hans-Theo, 2010. "A within-subject analysis of other-regarding preferences," DICE Discussion Papers 06, Düsseldorf Institute for Competition Economics (DICE), University of Düsseldorf.
  12. Fehr, Ernst & Schmidt, Klaus M., 1999. "A theory of fairness, competition, and cooperation," Munich Reprints in Economics 20650, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
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