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Mental accounting of public funds – The flypaper effect in the lab

Johannes Becker, Daniel Hopp and Michael Kriebel

Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 2020, vol. 176, issue C, 321-336

Abstract: We report evidence from a series of laboratory experiments that focus on mental accounting of ‘public funds’. Groups of three players decide upon how much to redistribute within the group. We measure the preference to redistribute when transfers are made either out of individual accounts (the players’ own money) or out of a common account (the group’s money). Since the common account is dissolved after each round and paid out to individuals, its size should not affect the decision to redistribute. The experiment is designed to control for anchoring as a potential confounding effect. We find that the size of the common account significantly affects redistribution behavior. Specifically, the transfer increases in the size of the common account. This effect is significantly more pronounced when the transfer is paid out of the common account (instead of the individual account). We interpret these findings as evidence for a flypaper effect due to mental accounting.

Keywords: Mental accounting; Flypaper effect; Lab experiments (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: C92 D72 H31 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020
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DOI: 10.1016/j.jebo.2020.04.026

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Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization is currently edited by Houser, D. and Puzzello, D.

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