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Shifting the Blame: On Delegation and Responsibility

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  • Bj�rn Bartling
  • Urs Fischbacher

Abstract

To fully understand the motives for delegating a decision right, it is important to study responsibility attributions for outcomes of delegated decisions. We conducted an experiment in which subjects were able to delegate the choice between a fair or unfair allocation, and used a punishment option to elicit responsibility attributions. Our results show that, first, responsibility attribution can be effectively shifted and, second, this constitutes a powerful motive for the delegation of a decision right. Furthermore, we propose a formal measure of responsibility and show that this measure outperforms measures based on outcome or intention in predicting punishment behavior.

Suggested Citation

  • Bj�rn Bartling & Urs Fischbacher, 2008. "Shifting the Blame: On Delegation and Responsibility," IEW - Working Papers 380, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  • Handle: RePEc:zur:iewwpx:380
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Delegation; decision rights; moral responsibility; blame shifting;

    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

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