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Measuring the Distribution of Spitefulness

Listed author(s):
  • Kimbrough Erik O.
  • Reiss J. Philipp

    (METEOR)

Spiteful, antisocial behavior undermines the moral and institutional fabric of society, producingdisorder, fear and mistrust. Previous research demonstrates the willingness of individuals to harmothers, but little is understood about how far people are willing to go in being spiteful or theirconsistency in spitefulness across repeated trials. Our experiment is the first to provideindividuals with repeated opportunities to spitefully harm anonymous others when the decisionentails zero cost to the spiter and cannot be observed by the object of spite. This method revealsthat the majority of individuals exhibit consistent (non-)spitefulness over time and that thedistribution of spitefulness is bipolar: when choosing whether to be spiteful, most individualseither avoid spite altogether or impose the maximum possible harm on their unwitting victims.

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Paper provided by Maastricht University, Maastricht Research School of Economics of Technology and Organization (METEOR) in its series Research Memorandum with number 040.

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Date of creation: 2012
Handle: RePEc:unm:umamet:2012040
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  1. DavidJ. Cooper & Hanming Fang, 2008. "Understanding Overbidding In Second Price Auctions: An Experimental Study," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 118(532), pages 1572-1595, October.
  2. Timothy Cason & Tatsuyoshi Saijo & Takehiko Yamato, 2002. "Voluntary Participation and Spite in Public Good Provision Experiments: An International Comparison," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 5(2), pages 133-153, October.
  3. Abbink, Klaus & Sadrieh, Abdolkarim, 2009. "The pleasure of being nasty," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 105(3), pages 306-308, December.
  4. Naoko Nishimura & Timothy N. Cason & Tatsuyoshi Saijo & Yoshikazu Ikeda, 2011. "Spite and Reciprocity in Auctions," Games, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 2(3), pages 1-47, September.
  5. Ernst Fehr & Karla Hoff & Mayuresh Kshetramade, 2008. "Spite and Development," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(2), pages 494-499, May.
  6. Houser, Daniel & Xiao, Erte, 2010. "Inequality-seeking punishment," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 109(1), pages 20-23, October.
  7. Dan Ariely & Axel Ockenfels & Alvin E. Roth, 2005. "An Experimental Analysis of Ending Rules in Internet Auctions," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 36(4), pages 890-907, Winter.
  8. Morgan John & Steiglitz Ken & Reis George, 2003. "The Spite Motive and Equilibrium Behavior in Auctions," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 2(1), pages 1-27, April.
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