Ashamed to be Selfish

40 Pages Posted: 14 Oct 2008

See all articles by David Dillenberger

David Dillenberger

University of Pennsylvania - Department of Economics

Philipp Sadowski

Duke University - Department of Economics

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: October 10, 2008

Abstract

We study a two-stage choice problem, where alternatives are allocations between the decision maker (DM) and a passive recipient. The recipient observes choice behavior in stage two, while stage one choice is unobserved. Choosing selfishly in stage two, in the face of a fairer available alternative, may inflict shame on DM. DM has preferences over sets of alternatives that represent period two choices. We axiomatize a representation that identifies DM's selfish ranking, her norm of fairness and shame. Altruism is the most prominent motive that can explain non-selfish choice. We identify a condition under which shame to be selfish can mimic altruism, when only stage-two choice is observed by the experimenter. An additional condition implies that the norm of fairness can be characterized as the Nash solution of a bargaining game induced by the second-stage choice problem. The representation is generalized to allow for finitely many recipients and applied to a simple strategic situation, a game of trust.

Keywords: selfishness, fairness, shame, altruism

JEL Classification: C78, D63, D64, D80, D81

Suggested Citation

Dillenberger, David and Sadowski, Philipp, Ashamed to be Selfish (October 10, 2008). PIER Working Paper No. 08-037. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1284479 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1284479

David Dillenberger (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania - Department of Economics ( email )

Ronald O. Perelman Center for Political Science
133 South 36th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6297
United States
215-898-1503 (Phone)

Philipp Sadowski

Duke University - Department of Economics ( email )

213 Social Sciences Building
Box 90097
Durham, NC 27708-0204
United States
919-660-1800 (Phone)

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