When Do People Prefer Carrots to Sticks? A Robust 'Matching Effect' in Policy Evaluation
41 Pages Posted: 3 Jun 2015
Date Written: June 1, 2015
We find a “matching effect” in policy evaluations. For behaviors seen as positive but voluntary (such as organ donation) people prefer policies that are framed as advantaging those who act positively rather than disadvantaging those who fail to do so. Conversely, for behaviors seen as positive and obligatory, people prefer policies that are framed as disadvantaging those who fail to fulfill obligations rather than advantaging those who do so. We find that these differences in policy evaluations occur even when policy outcomes are identical, i.e., when the only difference between the policies is how they are framed. These differences emerge both for evaluations of hypothetical policies, as well as when implementation of the policy directly affects the evaluator. Furthermore, differences in evaluations are not the result of misunderstanding of — or lack of deliberation about — policy outcomes. Rather, the matching effect appears to follow from lay beliefs about when punishment is and is not appropriate.
Keywords: Policies, framing, punishing & rewarding, justice, moral decision making
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