Doing Good vs. Avoiding Bad in Prosocial Choice: A Refined Test and Extension of the Morality Preference Hypothesis

Journal of Experimental Social Psychology

18 Pages Posted: 21 May 2018 Last revised: 22 Jun 2018

Ben Tappin

Royal Holloway, University of London

Valerio Capraro

Middlesex University

Date Written: May 8, 2018

Abstract

Prosociality is fundamental to human social life, and, accordingly, much research has attempted to explain human prosocial behavior. Capraro and Rand (Judgment and Decision Making, 13, 99-111, 2018) recently provided experimental evidence that prosociality in anonymous, one-shot interactions (such as Prisoner’s Dilemma and Dictator Game experiments) is not driven by outcome-based social preferences – as classically assumed – but by a generalized morality preference for “doing the right thing”. Here we argue that the key experiments reported in Capraro and Rand (2018) comprise prominent methodological confounds and open questions that bear on influential psychological theory. Specifically, their design confounds: (i) preferences for efficiency with self-interest; and (ii) preferences for action with preferences for morality. Furthermore, their design fails to dissociate the preference to do “good” from the preference to avoid doing “bad”. We thus designed and conducted a preregistered, refined and extended test of the morality preference hypothesis (N=801). Consistent with this hypothesis, our findings indicate that prosociality in the anonymous, one-shot Dictator Game is driven by preferences for doing the morally right thing. Inconsistent with influential psychological theory, however, our results suggest the preference to do “good” was as potent as the preference to avoid doing “bad” in this case.

Keywords: prosociality, social preferences, moral preferences, good, bad

JEL Classification: C02, C70, C71, C72, C78, C79, C91, D00, D01, D03, D63

Suggested Citation

Tappin, Ben and Capraro, Valerio, Doing Good vs. Avoiding Bad in Prosocial Choice: A Refined Test and Extension of the Morality Preference Hypothesis (May 8, 2018). Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3175207 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3175207

Ben Tappin

Royal Holloway, University of London ( email )

Egham
Surrey
TW20 0EX
United Kingdom

Valerio Capraro (Contact Author)

Middlesex University ( email )

The Burroughs
London, NW4 4BT
United Kingdom

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