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

  • Franziska Barmettler
  • Ernst Fehr
  • Christian Zehnder

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.

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Paper provided by Department of Economics - University of Zurich in its series ECON - Working Papers with number 027.

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Date of creation: Aug 2011
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Handle: RePEc:zur:econwp:027
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