IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/zur/econwp/125.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Does willful ignorance deflect punishment? – An experimental study

Author

Listed:
  • Björn Bartling
  • Florian Engl
  • Roberto A. Weber

Abstract

This paper studies whether people can avoid punishment by remaining willfully ignorant about possible negative consequences of their actions for others. We employ a laboratory experiment, using modified dictator games in which a dictator can remain willfully ignorant about the payoff consequences of his decision for a receiver. A third party can punish the dictator after observing the dictator’s decision and the resulting payoffs. On the one hand, willfully ignorant dictators are punished less if their actions lead to unfair outcomes than dictators who reveal the consequences before implementing the same outcome. On the other hand, willfully ignorant dictators are punished more than revealing dictators if their actions do not lead to unfair outcomes. We conclude that willful ignorance can circumvent blame when unfair outcomes result, but that the act of remaining willfully ignorant is itself punished, regardless of the outcome.

Suggested Citation

  • Björn Bartling & Florian Engl & Roberto A. Weber, 2013. "Does willful ignorance deflect punishment? – An experimental study," ECON - Working Papers 125, Department of Economics - University of Zurich.
  • Handle: RePEc:zur:econwp:125
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.econ.uzh.ch/static/wp/econwp125.pdf
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Ernst Fehr & Urs Fischbacher, "undated". "Third Party Punishment and Social Norms," IEW - Working Papers 106, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
    2. Ernst Fehr & Klaus M. Schmidt, 1999. "A Theory of Fairness, Competition, and Cooperation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(3), pages 817-868.
    3. Falk, Armin & Fischbacher, Urs, 2006. "A theory of reciprocity," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 54(2), pages 293-315, February.
    4. Broberg, Tomas & Ellingsen, Tore & Johannesson, Magnus, 2007. "Is generosity involuntary?," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 94(1), pages 32-37, January.
    5. Nikos Nikiforakis & Helen Mitchell, 2014. "Mixing the carrots with the sticks: third party punishment and reward," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 17(1), pages 1-23, March.
    6. Alexander W. Cappelen & James Konow & Erik ?. S?rensen & Bertil Tungodden, 2013. "Just Luck: An Experimental Study of Risk-Taking and Fairness," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(4), pages 1398-1413, June.
    7. Allen McDowell, 2003. "From the help desk: hurdle models," Stata Journal, StataCorp LP, vol. 3(2), pages 178-184, June.
    8. Bruno Frey & Matthias Benz & Alois Stutzer, 2004. "Introducing Procedural Utility: Not Only What, but Also How Matters," Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics (JITE), Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 160(3), pages 377-377, September.
    9. Michal Krawczyk, 2011. "A model of procedural and distributive fairness," Theory and Decision, Springer, vol. 70(1), pages 111-128, January.
    10. Sebald, Alexander, 2010. "Attribution and reciprocity," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 68(1), pages 339-352, January.
    11. Mehmet Y. Gurdal & Joshua B. Miller & Aldo Rustichini, 2013. "Why Blame?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 121(6), pages 1205-1247.
      • Gurdal, Mehmet & Miller, Joshua B. & Rustichini, Aldo, 2013. "Why Blame?," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 158, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
      • Mehmet Gurdal & Joshua B. Miller & Aldo Rustichini, 2013. "Why Blame?," Working Papers 494, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.
    12. James Andreoni & B. Douglas Bernheim, 2009. "Social Image and the 50-50 Norm: A Theoretical and Experimental Analysis of Audience Effects," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 77(5), pages 1607-1636, September.
    13. Edward P. Lazear & Ulrike Malmendier & Roberto A. Weber, 2012. "Sorting in Experiments with Application to Social Preferences," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 4(1), pages 136-163, January.
    14. Dufwenberg, Martin & Kirchsteiger, Georg, 2004. "A theory of sequential reciprocity," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 47(2), pages 268-298, May.
    15. Axel Ockenfels & Gary E. Bolton, 2000. "ERC: A Theory of Equity, Reciprocity, and Competition," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(1), pages 166-193, March.
    16. Weaver, R. Kent, 1986. "The Politics of Blame Avoidance," Journal of Public Policy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 6(04), pages 371-398, October.
    17. Fudenberg, Drew & Levine, David K., 2012. "Fairness, risk preferences and independence: Impossibility theorems," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 81(2), pages 606-612.
    18. J. Michelle Brock & Andreas Lange & Erkut Y. Ozbay, 2013. "Dictating the Risk: Experimental Evidence on Giving in Risky Environments," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(1), pages 415-437, February.
    19. Gary E Bolton & Jordi Brandts & Axel Ockenfels, 2005. "Fair Procedures: Evidence from Games Involving Lotteries," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 115(506), pages 1054-1076, October.
    20. Kota Saito, 2013. "Social Preferences under Risk: Equality of Opportunity versus Equality of Outcome," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(7), pages 3084-3101, December.
    21. Roth, Alvin E & Murnighan, J Keith, 1982. "The Role of Information in Bargaining: An Experimental Study," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(5), pages 1123-1142, September.
    22. Urs Fischbacher, 2007. "z-Tree: Zurich toolbox for ready-made economic experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 10(2), pages 171-178, June.
    23. Ockenfels, Axel & Werner, Peter, 2012. "‘Hiding behind a small cake’ in a newspaper dictator game," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 82(1), pages 82-85.
    24. Conrads, Julian & Irlenbusch, Bernd, 2013. "Strategic ignorance in ultimatum bargaining," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 92(C), pages 104-115.
    25. Mehmet Y. Gurdal & Joshua B. Miller & Aldo Rustichini, 2013. "Why Blame?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 121(6), pages 1205-1247.
    26. Conrads, Julian & Irlenbusch, Bernd, 2011. "Strategic Ignorance in Bargaining," IZA Discussion Papers 6087, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    27. John R. Hamman & George Loewenstein & Roberto A. Weber, 2010. "Self-Interest through Delegation: An Additional Rationale for the Principal-Agent Relationship," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(4), pages 1826-1846, September.
    28. Michal Krawczyk & Fabrice Le Lec, 2010. "‘Give me a chance!’ An experiment in social decision under risk," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 13(4), pages 500-511, December.
    29. Kagel, John H. & Kim, Chung & Moser, Donald, 1996. "Fairness in Ultimatum Games with Asymmetric Information and Asymmetric Payoffs," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 13(1), pages 100-110, March.
    30. Björn Bartling & Urs Fischbacher, 2012. "Shifting the Blame: On Delegation and Responsibility," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 79(1), pages 67-87.
    31. Nisvan Erkal & Lata Gangadharan & Nikos Nikiforakis, 2011. "Relative Earnings and Giving in a Real-Effort Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(7), pages 3330-3348, December.
    32. Jason Dana & Roberto Weber & Jason Kuang, 2007. "Exploiting moral wiggle room: experiments demonstrating an illusory preference for fairness," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 33(1), pages 67-80, October.
    33. Rabin, Matthew, 1993. "Incorporating Fairness into Game Theory and Economics," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(5), pages 1281-1302, December.
    34. Zephyr, 2010. "The city," City, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 14(1-2), pages 154-155, February.
    35. repec:cup:apsrev:v:85:y:1991:i:04:p:1133-1157_18 is not listed on IDEAS
    36. Trautmann, Stefan T., 2009. "A tractable model of process fairness under risk," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 30(5), pages 803-813, October.
    37. Dana, Jason & Cain, Daylian M. & Dawes, Robyn M., 2006. "What you don't know won't hurt me: Costly (but quiet) exit in dictator games," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 100(2), pages 193-201, July.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
    as


    Cited by:

    1. Wu, Jiabin, 2016. "Indirect Higher Order Beliefs and Cooperation," MPRA Paper 69600, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Kajackaite, Agne, 2015. "If I close my eyes, nobody will get hurt: The effect of ignorance on performance in a real-effort experiment," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 116(C), pages 518-524.
    3. repec:eee:soceco:v:73:y:2018:i:c:p:11-21 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Tim Friehe & Verena Utikal, 2015. "Intentions Undercover - Hiding Intentions is Considered Unfair," CESifo Working Paper Series 5218, CESifo Group Munich.
    5. repec:spr:jbecon:v:87:y:2017:i:9:d:10.1007_s11573-017-0851-y is not listed on IDEAS
    6. repec:eee:pubeco:v:158:y:2018:i:c:p:152-167 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Christine L. Exley, 2015. "Excusing Selfishness in Charitable Giving: The Role of Risk," Discussion Papers 15-013, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
    8. Aidin Hajikhameneh & Jared Rubin, 2017. "Reputation and Multilateral Punishment under Uncertainty," Working Papers 17-14, Chapman University, Economic Science Institute.
    9. Dimant, Eugen, 2015. "On Peer Effects: Behavioral Contagion of (Un)Ethical Behavior and the Role of Social Identity," MPRA Paper 68732, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    10. Christoph Engel & Sebastian Goerg, 2015. "If the Worst Comes to the Worst. Dictator Giving When Recipient’s Endowments are Risky," Discussion Paper Series of the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods 2015_15, Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods.
    11. Christine L. Exley & Judd B. Kessler, 2017. "The Better is the Enemy of the Good," Harvard Business School Working Papers 18-017, Harvard Business School.
    12. Christine L. Exley & Judd Kessler, 2017. "The Better is the Enemy of the Good," Working Papers 2017-068, Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group.
    13. Bernd Irlenbusch & Marie Claire Villeval, 2015. "Behavioral ethics: how psychology influenced economics and how economics might inform psychology?," Post-Print halshs-01159696, HAL.
    14. Christine L. Exley & Ragan Petrie, 2016. "The Impact of a Surprise Donation Ask," Harvard Business School Working Papers 16-101, Harvard Business School, revised Dec 2017.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Willful ignorance; third party punishment; dictator game; fairness;

    JEL classification:

    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:zur:econwp:125. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Marita Kieser). General contact details of provider: http://edirc.repec.org/data/seizhch.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.