On the Interpretation of Giving, Taking, and Destruction in Dictator Games and Joy-of-Destruction Games
The literature on dictator [D] games seems to demonstrate that some people are quite altruistic (nice), whereas the literature on joy-of-destruction [JoD] games shows that some people may be quite nasty. We study to what extent these behaviors are context dependent: If people are nice or nasty, are they consistently so? Or are niceness and nastiness dependent on circumstances? What are some of these circumstances? And what role does efficiency play in this context? We study these issues in a counter-balanced within-subject design of one-shot D and JoD games across three treatments (between-subjects). We find that people’s niceness, and nastiness, are indeed choice set, and context, dependent. When take-options and add-options (mirror images of give-options in standard D games and destruction options in standard JoD games) were added, we find considerable heterogeneity in types but relatively little behavior that can be considered clearly inconsistent, i.e., both nice and nasty. Consistent with previous evidence, we also find that subjects pay considerable attention to efficiency considerations. Mach-IV scores and other demographic characteristics have larger – but not large – effects on niceness (giving decision) than nastiness (destruction decision) where they, in our setting, essentially make no difference. Importantly, the order of decision elicitation implicit in our counter-balanced within-subject design, and, intriguingly, the definition of the relevant reference point (especially for giving decisions), matter for the interpretation of the results.
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