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Double Standards: Social Preferences and Moral Biases

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  • Croson, Rachel
  • Konow, James

Abstract

A consensus seems to be emerging in economics that at least three motives are at work in many strategic decisions: distributive preferences, reciprocal preferences and self-interest. An important obstacle to this research, however, has been moral biases, i.e., the distortions created by self-interest that can obscure social preferences. Among other things, this has led to disagreement about the relative importance of distributive preferences, reciprocal preferences, or both. This paper describes a simple experiment that decomposes behavior into these three forces and examines their interactions without the confounds that have compromised other designs. We compare the decisions of implicated “stakeholders” with those of impartial “spectators,” who have no stake. Several surprising and interesting results emerge. For example, stakeholders respond less forcefully to kindness and unkindness towards them than do spectators acting on their behalf. We also find an asymmetry in reciprocity: stakeholders punish but do not reward, whereas spectators both reward and punish. This result suggests that the lack of positive reciprocity found in other studies is not due to an asymmetry in underlying reciprocal preferences but rather to a moral bias by stakeholders in the application of that preference. More generally, we find that all three hypothesized motives have important and significant effects on final allocations.

Suggested Citation

  • Croson, Rachel & Konow, James, 2007. "Double Standards: Social Preferences and Moral Biases," MPRA Paper 2729, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:2729
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Konow, James, 2008. "The Moral High Ground: An Experimental Study of Spectator Impartiality," MPRA Paper 18558, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. James Konow, 2009. "Is fairness in the eye of the beholder? An impartial spectator analysis of justice," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 33(1), pages 101-127, June.
    3. Konow, James, 2009. "Adam Smith and Moral Knowledge," MPRA Paper 18557, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. James Konow & Tatsuyoshi Saijo & Kenju Akai, 2008. "Morals and Mores? Experimental Evidence on Equity and Equality from the US and Japan," Levine's Working Paper Archive 122247000000002055, David K. Levine.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Reciprocity; fairness; justice; moral bias;

    JEL classification:

    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior

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