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Big experimenter is watching you! Anonymity and prosocial behavior in the laboratory

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  • Franziska Barmettler
  • Ernst Fehr
  • Christian Zehnder

Abstract

Social preference research has received considerable attention in recent years. Researchers have demonstrated that the presence of people with other-regarding preferences can have important implications in many economic dimensions. However, it is important to be aware of the fact that the empirical basis of this literature relies to a large extent on experiments that do not provide anonymity between experimenter and subject. It has been argued that this lack of experimenter-subject anonymity may create sel sh incentives to engage in seemingly other-regarding behavior. If this were the case these experiments would overestimate the importance of social preferences. Previous studies provide mixed results and methodological di erences within and across studies make it difcult to isolate the impact of experimenter-subject anonymity on prosocial behavior. In this paper we use a novel procedure that allows us to examine the impact of the exact same ceteris-paribus variation in anonymity on behavior in three of the most commonly used games in the social preference literature. Our data reveals that introducing experimenter-subject anonymity has only minor, insigni cant, e ects on prosocial behavior.

Suggested Citation

  • Franziska Barmettler & Ernst Fehr & Christian Zehnder, 2011. "Big experimenter is watching you! Anonymity and prosocial behavior in the laboratory," ECON - Working Papers 027, Department of Economics - University of Zurich.
  • Handle: RePEc:zur:econwp:027
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    2. Cary Deck & Maroš Servátka & Steven Tucker, 2013. "An examination of the effect of messages on cooperation under double-blind and single-blind payoff procedures," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 16(4), pages 597-607, December.
    3. Catherine Roux & Christian Thöni, 2015. "Do control questions influence behavior in experiments?," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 18(2), pages 185-194, June.
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    11. Shoji, Masahiro, 2013. "Guilt aversion and peer effects in crime: experimental and empirical evidence from Bangladesh," MPRA Paper 44746, University Library of Munich, Germany.
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    14. Levati, M. Vittoria & Nicholas, Aaron & Rai, Birendra, 2014. "Testing the single-peakedness of other-regarding preferences," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 67(C), pages 197-209.
    15. Timme, Florian & Sass, Markus, 2016. "Doing it once is good, doing it twice is even better. On the dynamics of altruistic behavior," Annual Conference 2016 (Augsburg): Demographic Change 145536, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    16. Cary Deck & Maroš Servátka & Steven Tucker, 2011. "Do People Keep Socially Unverifiable Promises?," Working Papers in Economics 11/39, University of Canterbury, Department of Economics and Finance.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Scrutiny; anonymity; laboratory experiments; prosocial behavior;

    JEL classification:

    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles

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