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Altruism or Artefact? A Note on Dictator Game Giving

Nicholas Bardsley

No 2005-10, Discussion Papers from The Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics, School of Economics, University of Nottingham

Abstract: Experimental dictator games have been used to explore unselfish behaviour. Evidence is presented here, however, that subjects’ generosity can be reversed by allowing them to take money from a partner. Dictator game giving therefore does not stem from orthodox social preferences. It can be interpreted plausibly as an artefact of experimentation. Alternatively the evaluation of an action depends on the composition of the choice set. Implications of these possibilities are explored for experimental methodology and charitable donations respectively. The artefact interpretation is empirically superior, and implies that researchers should investigate demand characteristics of experimental protocols.

Keywords: altruism; artificiality; experiments; methodology (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: C91 C70 D63 D64 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-cbe, nep-exp, nep-gth and nep-soc
Date: 2005-04
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