Occasionally Libertarian: Experimental Evidence of Self-Serving Omission Bias

Journal of Law, Economics, & Organization, Vol. 30, 2014

Posted: 29 Feb 2012

See all articles by Andrew T. Hayashi

Andrew T. Hayashi

University of Virginia School of Law

Date Written: February 25, 2012

Abstract

People evaluate outcomes, in part, by how those outcomes came about and who caused them. For example, attitudes about the proper amount of redistributive taxation reflect beliefs about the causal roles played by luck and human agency in creating the pre-tax income distribution. Causal attribution, however, is a process both complicated and subject to bias. I generate individual-level data from a variation on the dictator game in which the participants’ initial endowments are manipulated to identify one aspect of how people care about causal attribution. The data are inconsistent with models of preferences defined solely over outcomes and also with a general bias toward inaction. Subjects care independently, but conditionally, about the effects of their own actions and demonstrate a bias toward inaction only when it is in their self-interest.

Keywords: omission bias, dictator games, fairness, narrow bracketing

JEL Classification: A12, C91, K10

Suggested Citation

Hayashi, Andrew T., Occasionally Libertarian: Experimental Evidence of Self-Serving Omission Bias (February 25, 2012). Journal of Law, Economics, & Organization, Vol. 30, 2014, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2011102

Andrew T. Hayashi (Contact Author)

University of Virginia School of Law ( email )

580 Massie Road
Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States

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