The role of role uncertainty in modified dictator games
We compare behavior in modified dictator games with and without role uncertainty. Subjects choose between a selfish action, a costly surplus creating action (altruistic behavior) and a costly surplus destroying action (spiteful behavior). While costly surplus creating actions are the most frequent under role uncertainty (64%), selfish actions become the most frequent without role uncertainty (69%). Also, the frequency of surplus destroying choices is negligible with role uncertainty (1%) but not so without it (11%). A classification of subjects into four different types of interdependent preferences (Selfish, Social Welfare maximizing, Inequity Averse and Competitive) shows that the use of role uncertainty overestimates the prevalence of Social Welfare maximizing preferences in the subject population (from 74% with role uncertainty to 21% without it) and underestimates Selfish and Inequity Averse preferences. An additional treatment, in which subjects undertake an understanding test before participating in the experiment with role uncertainty, shows that the vast majority of subjects (93%) correctly understand the payoff mechanism with role uncertainty, but yet surplus creating actions were most frequent. Our results warn against the use of role uncertainty in experiments that aim to measure the prevalence of interdependent preferences.
KeywordsRole uncertainty Role reversal Interdependent preferences Social welfare maximizing Inequity aversion Mixture-of-types models Strategy method Experiments
JEL ClassificationC72 C91 D81
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.
- Brandts, J., & Charness, G. (2009). The strategy method: a survey of experimental evidence. Mimeo. Google Scholar
- Camerer, C. (2003). Behavioral game theory. Experiments in strategic interaction. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Google Scholar
- Greiner, B. (2004). The online recruitment system ORSEE 2.0—a guide for the organization of experiments in economics. University of Cologne WP Series in Economics (Vol. 10). Google Scholar
- Iriberri, N., & Rey-Biel, P. (2008). Elicited beliefs and social information in modified dictator games: what do dictators believe other dictators do? UPF Working Papers Series N. 1137. Google Scholar
- Rawls, J. (1971). A theory of justice. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Google Scholar
- Roth, A. (1995). Bargaining experiments. In J. Kagel & A. Roth (Eds.), Handbook of experimental economics (pp. 253–348). Google Scholar
- Selten, R. (1967). Die Strategiemethode zur Erforschung des Eingeschränt Rationalen Verhaltens im Rahmen eines Oligopolexperiments. In H. Sauermann (Ed.), Beiträge zur Experimentellen Wirtschaftsforscgung (pp. 136–168). Google Scholar