Comparison of Frames for Choosing a Social Welfare Function
Poster Session, Society for Judgment and Decision Making Annual Meeting, 1996
18 Pages Posted: 28 Mar 2013
Date Written: November 3, 1996
Experiments test (a) whether the maximin rule (Rawls, 1971) or the utilitarian rule (Harsanyi, 1955) is preferred by subjects in concrete resource allocation decisions under some form of a "veil of ignorance", and (b) whether an original position-like decision frame in which the subject is a "veiled particpant" (VP) leads to greater support for the maximin rule than does the stance of an "impartial spectator" (IS). An experiment in the U.S. with consumer items indicates that utilitarianism is generally competitive with the maximin rule and that a VP framing does not enhance support for the maximin rule when goods are of minor value (i.e., not "primary"). Early results from a second experiment in Turkey concerning health care resources indicate that support for the maximin rule significantly exceeds that for the utilitarian rule (for both VP and IS framings) when the goods to be distributed are clearly important, and that the VP framing may indeed amplify this preference. Further experiments are needed to test for cultural effects.
Keywords: distributive justice, experimental ethics, original position, impartial spectator, veil of ignorance, maximiin rule, utilitarianism
JEL Classification: D63
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation