Identifying Altruism in the Laboratory
Glenn W. Harrison
Georgia State University - J. Mack Robinson College of Business
University of Denver - Department of Economics
UCF Economics Working Paper No. 04-04
Recent attempts to measure altruism towards other players or charities suffer from a potential confound: the act of giving is typically correlated with the size of the pie left on the experimenter's table. Altruistic acts could thus be more generous if subjects prefer that monies go towards other players, or charities, than be left on the table. On the other hand, revealed altruism could be lower if subjects are more altruistic towards the residual claimant than they are towards the agent to whom they are being asked to give. We demonstrate this point with simple laboratory experiments that derive from popular recent designs. We find that there is a significant effect from the hypothesized confound, with revealed altruism dependent upon who is specified as the residual claimant. Our results potentially apply to many other experimental tasks, since this confound is present in many popular experimental designs.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 58
Keywords: Altruism, experiments, social preferences
JEL Classification: D64, C91working papers series
Date posted: April 20, 2005
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