Non-Selfish Behavior: Are Social Preferences or Social Norms Revealed in Distribution Decisions?

78 Pages Posted: 28 Aug 2020 Last revised: 3 Mar 2021

See all articles by Shaun P. Hargreaves Heap

Shaun P. Hargreaves Heap

University of East Anglia (UEA) - School of Economic and Social Studies

Konstantinos Matakos

King's College London, Dept. of Political Economy

Nina Weber

King's College London

Date Written: July 21, 2020

Abstract

People frequently choose to reduce own payoffs to help others. This non-selfish behavior is typically assumed to arise because people are motivated by social preferences. An alternative explanation is that they follow social norms. We test which of these two accounts can better explain subjects' decisions in a simple distribution game. Unlike previous studies, we elicit preferences and perceived norms directly for each subject. We find that norm-following explains people's distributive choices better than social preferences, and lack of confidence in one's social preference predicts norm-following. Our finding have implications for the strength of the Pareto criterion in welfare evaluations.

Keywords: Social Preferences, Norms, Distribution Decisions, Inequality, Unselfishness, Social Identity, Ambiguity, Principles of Justice, Pareto Criterion, Maximin

JEL Classification: A13, C90, D63, D64, D91, Z13

Suggested Citation

Hargreaves Heap, Shaun and Matakos, Konstantinos and Weber, Nina, Non-Selfish Behavior: Are Social Preferences or Social Norms Revealed in Distribution Decisions? (July 21, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3657431 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3657431

Shaun Hargreaves Heap

University of East Anglia (UEA) - School of Economic and Social Studies ( email )

Norwich, Norfolk NR4 7TJ
United Kingdom
+44 (0)1603 593417 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.uea.ac.uk/soc/econ/people/hargreavesheap_s.shtml

Konstantinos Matakos

King's College London, Dept. of Political Economy ( email )

Strand Campus
London, WC2R 2LS
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://https://sites.google.com/site/kostasmatakos/

Nina Weber (Contact Author)

King's College London ( email )

Strand
London, England WC2R 2LS
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://www.ninasophieweber.com/

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