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Rational altruism? On preference estimation and dictator game experiments

Philip D. Grech and Heinrich H. Nax

Games and Economic Behavior, 2020, vol. 119, issue C, 309-338

Abstract: Experimental implementations of dictator games are found to differ in terms of their underlying strategic incentives. We explore this discovery in two separate directions. Theoretically, assuming identical other-regarding preferences, we show that the two most widely used protocols can generate strongly contrasting rational-choice predictions, from which different interpretations of dictator giving arise. Experimentally, a tailor-made experiment reveals significant differences between the two protocols but rejects full rationality as a satisfactory explanatory theory. Our findings indicate that several previously drawn conclusions regarding other-regarding preferences among humans distinguished by social class, gender, generation, nationality, etc. may be more ambiguous than hitherto believed.

Keywords: Altruism; Charitable giving; Dictator games; CES utility functions; Distributional preferences; Social preferences; Experimental economics; Foundations (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: A13 C72 D01 D64 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020
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DOI: 10.1016/j.geb.2019.10.004

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