Did We Overestimate the Role of Social Preferences? The Case of Self-Selected Student Samples

31 Pages Posted: 7 Feb 2011

See all articles by Armin Falk

Armin Falk

briq - Institute on Behavior & Inequality

Stephan Meier

Federal Reserve Bank of Boston; IZA Institute of Labor Economics; Columbia Business School - Management

Christian Zehnder

University of Lausanne

Multiple version iconThere are 3 versions of this paper

Abstract

Social preference research has received considerable attention among economists in recent years. However, the empirical foundation of social preferences is largely based on laboratory experiments with self-selected students as participants. This is potentially problematic as students participating in experiments may behave systematically different than non-participating students or non-students. In this paper we empirically investigate whether laboratory experiments with student samples misrepresent the importance of social preferences. Our first study shows that students who exhibit stronger prosocial inclinations in an unrelated field donation are not more likely to participate in experiments. This suggests that self-selection of more prosocial students into experiments is not a major issue. Our second study compares behavior of students and the general population in a trust experiment. We find very similar behavioral patterns for the two groups. If anything, the level of reciprocation seems higher among non-students suggesting that results from student samples might be seen as a lower bound for the importance of prosocial behavior.

Keywords: methodology, selection, experiments, prosocial behavior

JEL Classification: C90, D03

Suggested Citation

Falk, Armin and Meier, Stephan and Zehnder, Christian, Did We Overestimate the Role of Social Preferences? The Case of Self-Selected Student Samples. IZA Discussion Paper No. 5475. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1756013

Armin Falk (Contact Author)

briq - Institute on Behavior & Inequality

Schaumburg-Lippe-Straße 5-9
Bonn, 53113
Germany

HOME PAGE: http://www.briq-institute.org/

Stephan Meier

Federal Reserve Bank of Boston ( email )

600 Atlantic Avenue
Boston, MA 02210
United States

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Columbia Business School - Management ( email )

3022 Broadway
New York, NY 10027
United States

Christian Zehnder

University of Lausanne ( email )

Quartier Chambronne
Lausanne, Vaud CH-1015
Switzerland

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
24
Abstract Views
458
PlumX Metrics