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At the Mercy of the Prisoner Next Door: Using an Experimental Measure of Selfishness as a Criminological Tool

24 Pages Posted: 20 Jun 2010 Last revised: 1 Aug 2010

Thorsten Chmura

University of Bonn - Faculty of Law & Economics; Nottingham University Business School

Christoph Engel

Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods; University of Bonn - Faculty of Law & Economics; Universität Osnabrück - Faculty of Law

Markus Englerth

Max Planck Society for the Advancement of the Sciences - Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods

Thomas Pitz

University of Bonn

Date Written: June 1, 2010

Abstract

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.

Keywords: experiment, Crime, Prison, Dictator Game, Hurdle Model

JEL Classification: K42, C91, K14, C34

Suggested Citation

Chmura, Thorsten and Engel, Christoph and Englerth, Markus and Pitz, Thomas, At the Mercy of the Prisoner Next Door: Using an Experimental Measure of Selfishness as a Criminological Tool (June 1, 2010). MPI Collective Goods Preprint No. 2010/27. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1626149 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1626149

Thorsten Chmura

University of Bonn - Faculty of Law & Economics ( email )

Postfach 2220
D-53012 Bonn
Germany

Nottingham University Business School

Jubilee Campus
Wollaton Road
Nottingham, NG8 1BB
United Kingdom

Christoph Engel (Contact Author)

Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods ( email )

Kurt-Schumacher-Str. 10
D-53113 Bonn, 53113
Germany
+049 228 914160 (Phone)
+049 228 9141655 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.coll.mpg.de/engel.html

University of Bonn - Faculty of Law & Economics

Postfach 2220
D-53012 Bonn
Germany

Universität Osnabrück - Faculty of Law

c/o Prof. Dr. Schneider
Osnabruck, D-49069
Germany

Markus Englerth

Max Planck Society for the Advancement of the Sciences - Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods ( email )

Kurt-Schumacher-Str. 10
D-53113 Bonn, 53113
Germany

Thomas Pitz

University of Bonn ( email )

BWL 1
Adenauerallee 24-42
Bonn, D-53012
Germany

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