A Theory of Causal Responsibility Attribution

47 Pages Posted: 16 Mar 2017 Last revised: 8 Jan 2018

See all articles by Florian Engl

Florian Engl

University of Cologne - Faculty of Management, Economics and Social Sciences; CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

Date Written: January 7, 2018

Abstract

People frequently reward and punish other people if they perceive them to be responsible for the implementation of events that they like or dislike. However, the determinants of such responsibility perceptions are not well understood within economics. In this paper, I propose a notion of causal responsibility as one determinant of responsibility perceptions. The notion attempts to objectively capture the causal importance of a person’s action for the implementation of an event when the implementation depends on the interaction of multiple persons and, potentially, moves of nature. I incorporate the notion in a framework of responsibility preferences and study its implication for behavior and equilibria in strategic settings. Finally, I show that the notion can explain experimentally elicited punishment and reward patterns in multi-agent situations that are not well-explained by existing social preference theories.

Keywords: Responsibility, Causal Reasoning, Punishment, Reward, Social Preferences

JEL Classification: C72, D03, D63, D70

Suggested Citation

Engl, Florian, A Theory of Causal Responsibility Attribution (January 7, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2932769 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2932769

Florian Engl (Contact Author)

University of Cologne - Faculty of Management, Economics and Social Sciences ( email )

Richard-Strauss-Str. 2
Cologne, D-50923
Germany

CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute) ( email )

Poschinger Str. 5
Munich, DE-81679
Germany

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