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Understanding Social Preferences with Simple Tests

Publication Date:
Jan 2002
Project Programs:
Behavioral Economics

Departures from self-interest in economic experiments have recently inspired model s of "social preferences." We design a range of simple experimental games that test these theories more directly than existing experiments. Our experiments show that subjects are more concerned with increasing social welfare-sacrificing to increase the payoffs for all recipients, especially low-payoff recipients-than with reducing differences in payoffs (as supposed in recent models). Subjects are also motivated by reciprocity: they withdraw willingness to sacrifice to achieve a fair outcome when others are themselves unwilling to sacrifice, and sometimes punish unfair behavior.

The Russell Sage Foundation
Journal of the Social Sciences

The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal of original empirical research articles by both established and emerging scholars.

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