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Understanding Social Preferences with Simple Tests

  • Gary Charness

    (University of California, Santa Barbara)

  • Matthew Rabin

    (University of California, Berkeley)

Departures from self-interest in economic experiments have recently inspired models of "social preferences". We design a range of simple experimental games that test these theories more directly than existing experiments. Our experiments show that subjects are more concerned with increasing social welfare sacrificing to increase the payoffs for all recipients, especially low-payoff recipients than with reducing differences in payoffs (as supposed in recent models). Subjects are also motivated by reciprocity: They withdraw willingness to sacrifice to achieve a fair outcome when others are themselves unwilling to sacrifice, and sometimes punish unfair behavior.

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Paper provided by EconWPA in its series General Economics and Teaching with number 0303002.

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Length: 57 pages
Date of creation: 19 Mar 2003
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpgt:0303002
Note: 57 pages, Acrobat .pdf
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  8. Bolton, G.E. & Brandts, J. & Ockenfels, A., 1997. "Measuring Motivations for the Reciprocal Responses Observed in a Simple Dilemma Game," UFAE and IAE Working Papers 400.97, Unitat de Fonaments de l'Anàlisi Econòmica (UAB) and Institut d'Anàlisi Econòmica (CSIC).
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  17. Norman Frohlich & Joe Oppenheimer & Pat Bond & Irvin Boschman, 1984. "Beyond Economic Man," Journal of Conflict Resolution, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 28(1), pages 3-24, March.
  18. Andreoni, James & Brown, Paul M. & Vesterlund, Lise, 2002. "What Makes an Allocation Fair? Some Experimental Evidence," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 40(1), pages 1-24, July.
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