Contractual preferences and moral biases: social identity and procedural fairness in the exclusion game experiment

Original Paper


Many people may suffer from moral biases when making allocation decisions having consequences to others. This means that some factors hinder people from finding, or constructing, their true social preferences in those situations. As a counterforce to this, numerous devices of moral priming have evolved—such as parenting, formal education as well as various formal and informal contracting procedures. This paper focuses on the influences of social identity and the perceived fairness of contracting procedures on subjects’ behaviour in situations of allocation decisions. The analysis of experimental data suggest, first, that males are less likely than females to engage in other-regarding behaviour in a pre-agreement situation where two active players divide an endowment among themselves and a third, passive, player. However, this difference disappeared after the joint contract of the rule of dividing the endowment was made. Second, it was found that students of economics are less likely than other students to behave in an other-regarding way before the contract; this difference remained also in decisions after the contract was made. Finally, both a random selection mechanism and a majority voting mechanism were rated fair by the majority of the subjects. However, the data suggests that fairness ratings are positively associated with compliant behavior only in the case of the majority voting mechanism.


Conformist preferences Fairness Social identity Moral bias 

JEL classification

C7 C9 D63 D86 



I am grateful to two anonymous referees for helpful comments on an earlier version of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of LawUniversity of Eastern FinlandJoensuuFinland

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