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Error prone inference from respons time: The case of intuitive generosity


  • Recalde M.P.
  • Riedl A.M.
  • Vesterlund L.



Response time is increasingly used to shed light on the process by which individualsmake decisions. As mistakes may be correlated with response time it could, however, bemisleading to use this measure to draw inference on preferences. To demonstrate we build on arecent literature, which uses response time to determine whether individuals intuitively aregenerous or selfish. Examining public good games researchers have shown that fast decisionmakers appear more generous than slow decision makers and this has been interpreted asevidence that generosity is intuitive and impulsive while selfishness is a calculated responseRand et al. 2012; Nielsen, et al. 2014. Modifying the public good game to have an interiordominant strategy equilibrium we ask if the negative correlation between response time andgiving is sensitive to the location of the equilibrium and whether it may result from mistakes.When the equilibrium is located below the midpoint of the strategy space we replicate earlierfindings. However, when the equilibrium is located above the midpoint of the strategy space weget instead a positive correlation between response time and giving. While contributiondistributions vary significantly by treatment for slow decision makers, these differences are notsignificant for fast decision makers. Fast decision makers are in both treatments more likely tomake contributions that simultaneously lower individual and group earnings. We argue that thenegative correlation between response time and giving rather than reflecting spontaneousgiving, results from confused participants quickly selecting contributions that lie, on average, inthe middle of the strategy space. Our results demonstrate that inference on preferences fromresponse time requires that we take into account how mistakes are correlated with response time.

Suggested Citation

  • Recalde M.P. & Riedl A.M. & Vesterlund L., 2014. "Error prone inference from respons time: The case of intuitive generosity," Research Memorandum 034, Maastricht University, Graduate School of Business and Economics (GSBE).
  • Handle: RePEc:unm:umagsb:2014034

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    1. Martin G. Kocher & Peter Martinsson & Kristian Ove R. Myrseth & Conny E. Wollbrant, 2017. "Strong, bold, and kind: self-control and cooperation in social dilemmas," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 20(1), pages 44-69, March.
    2. Martin G. Kocher & Julius Pahlke & Stefan T. Trautmann, 2013. "Tempus Fugit : Time Pressure in Risky Decisions," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 59(10), pages 2380-2391, October.
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    Cited by:

    1. Brice Corgnet & Antonio M. Espín & Roberto Hernán-González, 2015. "The cognitive basis of social behavior: cognitive reflection overrides antisocial but not always prosocial motives," Working Papers 15-04, Chapman University, Economic Science Institute.
    2. repec:eee:eecrev:v:107:y:2018:i:c:p:185-203 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Krawczyk, Michał & Sylwestrzak, Marta, 2018. "Exploring the role of deliberation time in non-selfish behavior: The double response method," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 72(C), pages 121-134.
    4. Currarini, Sergio & Mengel, Friederike, 2016. "Identity, homophily and in-group bias," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 90(C), pages 40-55.
    5. Fenig, Guidon & Gallipoli, Giovanni & Halevy, Yoram, 2015. "Complementarity in the Private Provision of Public Goods by Homo Pecuniarius and Homo Behavioralis," working papers yoram_halevy-2015-21, Vancouver School of Economics, revised 02 May 2016.
    6. Artavia-Mora, Luis & Bedi, Arjun S. & Rieger, Matthias, 2017. "Intuitive help and punishment in the field," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 92(C), pages 133-145.
    7. Muriel Niederle, 2014. "Gender," NBER Working Papers 20788, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. repec:eee:pubeco:v:158:y:2018:i:c:p:152-167 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. repec:kap:expeco:v:22:y:2019:i:1:d:10.1007_s10683-018-9566-3 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. repec:gam:jgames:v:8:y:2017:i:3:p:36-:d:109032 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. Casarico, Alessandra & Tonin, Mirco, 2018. "Pay-What-You-Want to Support Independent Information: A Field Experiment on Motivation," IZA Discussion Papers 11366, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    12. Goeschl, Timo & Lohse, Johannes, 2018. "Cooperation in public good games. Calculated or confused?," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 107(C), pages 185-203.
    13. Arkady Konovalov & Ian Krajbich, 2016. "Revealed Indifference: Using Response Times to Infer Preferences," Working Papers 16-01, Ohio State University, Department of Economics.
    14. Merkel, Anna & Lohse, Johannes, 2016. "Is fairness intuitive? An experiment accounting for the role of subjective utility differences under time pressure," Working Papers 0627, University of Heidelberg, Department of Economics.
    15. Artavia Mora, L.D., 2016. "Intuitive cooperation in The Hague : A natural field experiment," ISS Working Papers - General Series 614, International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam (ISS), The Hague.
    16. repec:kap:enreec:v:67:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1007_s10640-016-0029-z is not listed on IDEAS
    17. Merkel, Anna & Lohse, Johannes, 2018. "Is fairness intuitive? An experiment accounting for subjective utility differences under time pressure," Working Papers 0647, University of Heidelberg, Department of Economics.
    18. Exley, Christine L. & Petrie, Ragan, 2018. "The impact of a surprise donation ask," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 158(C), pages 152-167.

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