Rational Altruism? On Preference Estimation and Dictator Game Experiments

52 Pages Posted: 21 Jun 2017 Last revised: 10 Oct 2019

See all articles by Philip Grech

Philip Grech

ETH Zürich

Heinrich H. Nax

ETH Zürich; University of Zurich

Date Written: July 3, 2018


Experimental implementations of dictator games are found to differ in terms of their underlying strategic incentives. We explore this discovery in two separate directions. Theoretically, assuming identical other-regarding preferences, we show that the two most widely used protocols can generate strongly contrasting rational-choice predictions, from which different interpretations of dictator giving arise. Experimentally, a tailor-made experiment reveals signiffcant differences between the two protocols but rejects full rationality as a satisfactory explanatory theory. Our findings indicate that several previously drawn conclusions regarding other-regarding preferences among humans distinguished by social class, gender, generation, nationality, etc. may be more ambiguous than hitherto believed.

Keywords: Giving, Charitable giving, Dictator games, CES utility functions, Distributional preferences, Social preferences, Experimental economics, Foundations

JEL Classification: A13, C72, D01, D64

Suggested Citation

Grech, Philip and Nax, Heinrich H., Rational Altruism? On Preference Estimation and Dictator Game Experiments (July 3, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2989644 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2989644

Philip Grech

ETH Zürich ( email )

Weinbergstrasse 56/58
WEV K513
Zurich, 8092

Heinrich H. Nax (Contact Author)

ETH Zürich ( email )

Rämistrasse 101
Zürich, 8092

University of Zurich ( email )

Rämistrasse 71
Zürich, CH-8006

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics