The Emergence of Hyper-Altruistic Behaviour in Conflictual Situations
Scientific Reports 4, 9916.
7 Pages Posted: 7 Oct 2014 Last revised: 30 May 2015
Date Written: March 13, 2015
Situations where people have to decide between hurting themselves or another person are at the core of many individual and global conflicts. Yet little is known about how people behave when facing these situations in the lab. Here we report a large (N=2.379) experiment in which participants could either take x dollars from another anonymous participant or give y dollars to the same participant. Depending on the experimental treatments, participants were also allowed to exit the game without making any decision, but paying a cost. Across different protocols and parameter specifications, we found three major results: (i) when exiting is allowed and costless, subjects tend to exit the game; (ii) females are more likely than males to exit the game, but only when the cost of the exit is small; (iii) when exiting is not allowed, altruistic actions are more common than predicted by the dominant economic models. In particular, about one sixth of the subjects show hyper-altruistic tendencies, that is, they prefer giving y rather than taking x>y. In doing so, our findings shed light on human decision-making in conflictual situations and suggest that economic models should be revised in order to take into account hyper-altruistic behaviour.
Keywords: conflict, altruism, gender differences, human behaviour
JEL Classification: C00, C70, C72, C91, D74
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation