At the Mercy of the Prisoner Next Door: Using an Experimental Measure of Selfishness as a Criminological Tool
University of Bonn - Faculty of Law & Economics; Nottingham University Business School
Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods; University of Bonn - Faculty of Law & Economics; Universität Osnabrück - Faculty of Law
Max Planck Society for the Advancement of the Sciences - Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods
University of Bonn
June 1, 2010
MPI Collective Goods Preprint No. 2010/27
Do criminals maximise money? Are criminals more or less selfish than the average subject? Can prisons apply measures that reduce the degree of selfishness of their inmates? Using a tried and tested tool from experimental economics, we cast new light on these old criminological questions. In a standard dictator game, prisoners give a substantial amount, which calls for more refined versions of utility in rational choice theories of crime. Prisoners do not give less than average subjects, not even than subjects from other closely knit communities. This speaks against the idea that people commit crimes because they are excessively selfish. Finally those who receive better marks at prison school give more, as do those who improve their marks over time. This suggests that this correctional intervention also reduces selfishness.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 24
Keywords: experiment, Crime, Prison, Dictator Game, Hurdle Model
JEL Classification: K42, C91, K14, C34
Date posted: June 20, 2010 ; Last revised: August 1, 2010
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