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A New Look at the Theory of Social Value Orientations: Prosocials Neither Maximize Joint Outcome nor Minimize Outcome Differences but Prefer Equal Outcomes

  • Daniel Eek
  • Tommy Gärling

A friend of one of this chapter’s authors once checked in at a conference hotel together with a colleague. The hotel was posh and expensive, but because the prices were heavily subsidized, both had made reservations for the best rooms (“class A”). However, something had gone wrong with the reservations. Only one of the best rooms was available, as well as one room with a somewhat lower standard, “class B,” and a few rooms with a considerably lower standard, “class C.” Given the subsidies, prices were the same irrespective of class, so there was clearly no incentive to choose anything but “class A.” The question was, who should take “class A” and who “class B”? None of the colleagues was likely to turn hostile on the other, so more or less simultaneously they honestly said, “Pick whatever room you want.” It was also clear that both wanted the nicer “class A.” But it was equally clear that none wanted it at the other’s expense. Hence, “class A” and “class B” lost their attraction, resulting in that both chose “class C.”

Readers familiar with social value orientation theories know that irrespective of whether the friend and his colleague had an individualistic, a competitive, or a cooperative social value orientation, these theories would predict that they choose “class A” when given the opportunity and that no one chooses “class C.” However, both chose “class C.” Hence, current social value orientation theories cannot account for the outcome described.

The aim of this chapter is to present empirical evidence pointing out that current social value orientation theories need to be revised in order to better explain the behavior of cooperators, which both persons in the example above then and now consider themselves to be. The theoretical revision put forward herein emphasizes the importance of equality for prosocials. The choice of “class C” in the anecdotal example did not reflect a preference for a low standard, but for an equal standard.

Keywords

Social Dilemma Experimental Social Psychology Orientation Theory Equal Outcome Advantageous Position 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel Eek
    • 1
  • Tommy Gärling
    • 1
  1. 1.Psykologiska InstitutionenGöteborg UniversitySweden

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