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The Big Robber Game


Alós-Ferrer, Carlos; García-Segarra, Jaume; Ritschel, Alexander (2018). The Big Robber Game. Working paper series / Department of Economics 291, University of Zurich.

Abstract

We present a novel design measuring a correlate of social preferences in a high-stakes setting. In the Big Robber Game, a "robber" can obtain large personal gains by appropriating the gains of a large group of "victims" as seen in recent corporate scandals. We observed that more than half of all robbers take as much as possible. At the same time, participants displayed standard, prosocial behavior in the Dictator, Ultimatum, and Trust games. That is, prosocial behavior in the small is compatible with highly selfish actions in the large, and the essence of corporate scandals can be reproduced in the laboratory even with a standard student sample. We show that this apparent contradiction is actually consistent with received social-preference models. In agreement with this view, in the experiment more selfish robbers also behaved more selfishly in other games and in a donation question. We conclude that social preferences are compatible with rampant selfishness in high-impact decisions affecting a large group.

Abstract

We present a novel design measuring a correlate of social preferences in a high-stakes setting. In the Big Robber Game, a "robber" can obtain large personal gains by appropriating the gains of a large group of "victims" as seen in recent corporate scandals. We observed that more than half of all robbers take as much as possible. At the same time, participants displayed standard, prosocial behavior in the Dictator, Ultimatum, and Trust games. That is, prosocial behavior in the small is compatible with highly selfish actions in the large, and the essence of corporate scandals can be reproduced in the laboratory even with a standard student sample. We show that this apparent contradiction is actually consistent with received social-preference models. In agreement with this view, in the experiment more selfish robbers also behaved more selfishly in other games and in a donation question. We conclude that social preferences are compatible with rampant selfishness in high-impact decisions affecting a large group.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Working Paper
Communities & Collections:03 Faculty of Economics > Department of Economics
Working Paper Series > Department of Economics
Dewey Decimal Classification:330 Economics
JEL Classification:C72, C92, D03
Uncontrolled Keywords:Big Robber Game, social preferences, corporate scandals, incentives, Spieltheorie, Verhaltensökonomie, Präferenz, Sozialverhalten, Unternehmen, Skandal
Language:English
Date:June 2018
Deposited On:20 Jul 2018 12:45
Last Modified:27 Nov 2020 07:29
Series Name:Working paper series / Department of Economics
Number of Pages:46
ISSN:1664-7041
OA Status:Green
Official URL:http://www.econ.uzh.ch/static/wp/econwp291.pdf
Related URLs:http://www.econ.uzh.ch/static/workingpapers.php

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