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Big experimenter is watching you! Anonymity and prosocial behavior in the laboratory


Barmettler, Franziska; Fehr, Ernst; Zehnder, Christian (2012). Big experimenter is watching you! Anonymity and prosocial behavior in the laboratory. Games and Economic Behavior, 75(1):17-34.

Abstract

Researchers have demonstrated that the presence of people with social preferences has importanteconomic implications. However, the empirical basis of this research relies to a large extent onexperiments that do not provide anonymity between experimenter and subject. It has been arguedthat this lack of experimenter–subject anonymity may create selfish incentives to engage inseemingly other-regarding behavior. If this were the case, these experiments would overestimatethe importance of social preferences. Previous studies provide mixed results and methodologicaldifferences within and across studies make it difficult to isolate the impact of experimenter–subjectanonymity. In this paper we use a novel procedure that allows us to examine the impact of theexact same ceterisparibus variation in anonymity on behavior in three of the most commonly usedgames in the social preference literature. We find that the introduction of experimenter–subjectanonymity has no significant effect in any of the three games.

Researchers have demonstrated that the presence of people with social preferences has importanteconomic implications. However, the empirical basis of this research relies to a large extent onexperiments that do not provide anonymity between experimenter and subject. It has been arguedthat this lack of experimenter–subject anonymity may create selfish incentives to engage inseemingly other-regarding behavior. If this were the case, these experiments would overestimatethe importance of social preferences. Previous studies provide mixed results and methodologicaldifferences within and across studies make it difficult to isolate the impact of experimenter–subjectanonymity. In this paper we use a novel procedure that allows us to examine the impact of theexact same ceterisparibus variation in anonymity on behavior in three of the most commonly usedgames in the social preference literature. We find that the introduction of experimenter–subjectanonymity has no significant effect in any of the three games.

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11 citations in Web of Science®
11 citations in Scopus®
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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:03 Faculty of Economics > Department of Economics
Dewey Decimal Classification:330 Economics
Language:English
Date:May 2012
Deposited On:17 Sep 2012 08:34
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 15:57
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:0899-8256
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.geb.2011.09.003
Other Identification Number:merlin-id:7248
Permanent URL: https://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-64634

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