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Salience and social choice

Mark Schneider () and Jonathan Leland
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Mark Schneider: University of Alabama

Experimental Economics, 2021, vol. 24, issue 4, No 6, 1215-1241

Abstract: Abstract The axioms of expected utility and discounted utility theory have been tested extensively. In contrast, the axioms of social welfare functions have only been tested in a few questionnaire studies involving choices between hypothetical income distributions. In a controlled experiment with 100 subjects placed in the role of social planners, we test five fundamental properties of social welfare functions to determine the efficacy of traditional social choice models in predicting social planner allocations when presented with choice sets designed to test the axioms of the theory. We find that three properties of the standard social welfare functions tested are systematically violated, producing an Allais paradox, a common ratio effect, and a framing effect in social choice. We find support for scale invariance and a preference for tail-increasing transfers. Our experiment also enables us to test a model of salience-based social choice which predicts the systematic deviations and highlights the close relationship between these anomalies and the classical paradoxes for risk and time.

Keywords: Salience; Social choice; Allais; Framing; Utilitarianism; Social welfare functions (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2021
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DOI: 10.1007/s10683-020-09695-3

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