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Social preferences or sacred values? Theroy and evidence of deontological motivations

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  • Chen, Daniel L.
  • Schonger, Martin

Abstract

Recent advances in economic theory, largely motivated by experimental findings, have led to the adoption of models of human behavior where a decision-maker not only takes into consideration her own payoff but also others’ payoffs and any potential consequences of these payoffs. Investigations of deontological motivations, where a decision-maker makes her choice not only based on the consequences of a decision but also the decision per se have been rare. We propose an experimental method that can detect an individual’s deontological motivations by varying the probability of the decision-maker’s decision having consequences. It uses two states of the world, one where the decision has consequences and one where it has none. We show that a purely consequentialist decision-maker whose preferences satisfy first-order stochastic dominance will choose the decision that leads to the best consequences regardless of the probability of the consequential state. A purely deontological decision-maker is also invariant to the probability. However, a mixed consequentialist-deontological decision-maker’s choice changes with the probability. The direction of change gives insight into the location of the optimand for one’s duty. We provide a formal interpretation of major moral philosophies and a revealed preference method to detect deontological motivations and discuss the relevance of the theory and method for economics and law.

Suggested Citation

  • Chen, Daniel L. & Schonger, Martin, 2016. "Social preferences or sacred values? Theroy and evidence of deontological motivations," TSE Working Papers 16-714, Toulouse School of Economics (TSE).
  • Handle: RePEc:tse:wpaper:31113
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    Keywords

    Consequentialism; deontological motivations; normative commitments; social preferences; revealed preference; decision theory; first order stochastic dominance; random lottery incentive method;

    JEL classification:

    • D6 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics
    • K2 - Law and Economics - - Regulation and Business Law

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