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Testing Theories of Fairness - Intentions Matter

  • Armin Falk
  • Ernst Fehr
  • Urs Fischbacher

Recently developed models of fairness can explain a wide variety of seemingly contradictory facts. The most controversial and yet unresolved issue in the modeling of fairness preferences concerns the behavioral relevance of fairness intentions. Intuitively, fairness intentions seem to play an important role in economic relations, political struggles and legal disputes. Yet, so far there is little rigorous evidence supporting this intuition. In this paper we provide clear and unambiguous experimental evidence for the behavioral relevance of fairness intentions. Our results indicate that the attribution of fairness intentions is important both in the domain of negatively reciprocal behavior and in the domain of positively reciprocal behavior. This means that reciprocal behavior cannot be fully captured by equity models that are exclusively based on preferences over the distribution of material payoffs. Models that take into account players' fairness intentions and distributional preferences are consistent with our data while models that focus exclusively on intentions or on the distribution of material payoffs are not.

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Paper provided by Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich in its series IEW - Working Papers with number 063.

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Handle: RePEc:zur:iewwpx:063
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  1. Brandts, J. & Charness, G., 1998. "Hot Vs. Cold: Sequential Responses and Preference Stability in Experimental Games," UFAE and IAE Working Papers 424.98, Unitat de Fonaments de l'Anàlisi Econòmica (UAB) and Institut d'Anàlisi Econòmica (CSIC).
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  3. Gary Bolton & Jordi Brandts & Axel Ockenfels, 1998. "Measuring Motivations for the Reciprocal Responses Observed in a Simple Dilemma Game," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 1(3), pages 207-219, December.
  4. James Andreoni, 2001. "Giving According to GARP," Theory workshop papers 339, UCLA Department of Economics.
  5. Abbink, Klaus & Bernd Irlenbusch & Elke Renner, 1997. "The Moonlighting Game - An Experimental Study on Reciprocity and Retribution," Discussion Paper Serie B 415, University of Bonn, Germany.
  6. 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.
  7. Gary Charness & Matthew Rabin, 2001. "Social Preferences: Some Simple Tests and a New Model," General Economics and Teaching 0012002, EconWPA.
  8. Blount, Sally, 1995. "When Social Outcomes Aren't Fair: The Effect of Causal Attributions on Preferences," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 63(2), pages 131-144, August.
  9. Gary Charness, 1996. "Attribution and reciprocity in a simulated labor market: An experimental investigation," Economics Working Papers 283, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, revised Oct 1997.
  10. Timothy N. Cason & Vai-Lam Mui, 1998. "Social Influence in the Sequential Dictator Game," Monash Economics Working Papers archive-37, Monash University, Department of Economics.
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