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On the psychology and economics of antisocial personality


Fehr, Ernst; Engelmann, Jan B; Schmid, B; Chumbley, J; De Dreu, C K W (2019). On the psychology and economics of antisocial personality. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 116(26):12781-12786.

Abstract

How do fundamental concepts from economics, such as individuals’ preferences and beliefs, relate to equally fundamental concepts from psychology, such as relatively stable personality traits? Can personality traits help us better understand economic behavior across strategic contexts? We identify an antisocial personality profile and examine the role of strategic context (the “situation”), personality traits (the “person”), and their interaction on beliefs and behaviors in trust games. Antisocial individuals exhibit a specific combination of beliefs and preferences that is difficult to reconcile with a rational choice approach that assumes that beliefs about others’ behaviors are formed rationally and therefore, independently from preferences. Variations in antisocial personality are associated with effect sizes that are as large as strong variations in strategic context. Antisocial individuals have lower trust in others unless they know that they can punish them. They are also substantially less trustworthy, believe that others are like themselves, and respond to the possibility of being sanctioned more strongly, suggesting that they anticipate severe punishment if they betray their partner’s trust. Antisocial individuals are not simply acting in their economic self-interest, because they harshly punish those who do not reciprocate their trust, although that reduces their economic payoff, and they do so nonimpulsively and in a very calculated manner. Antisocial individuals honor others’ trust significantly less (if they cannot be punished) but also, harshly punish those who betray their trust. Overall, it seems that antisocial individuals have beliefs and behaviors based on a view of the world that assumes that most others are as antisocial as they themselves are.

Abstract

How do fundamental concepts from economics, such as individuals’ preferences and beliefs, relate to equally fundamental concepts from psychology, such as relatively stable personality traits? Can personality traits help us better understand economic behavior across strategic contexts? We identify an antisocial personality profile and examine the role of strategic context (the “situation”), personality traits (the “person”), and their interaction on beliefs and behaviors in trust games. Antisocial individuals exhibit a specific combination of beliefs and preferences that is difficult to reconcile with a rational choice approach that assumes that beliefs about others’ behaviors are formed rationally and therefore, independently from preferences. Variations in antisocial personality are associated with effect sizes that are as large as strong variations in strategic context. Antisocial individuals have lower trust in others unless they know that they can punish them. They are also substantially less trustworthy, believe that others are like themselves, and respond to the possibility of being sanctioned more strongly, suggesting that they anticipate severe punishment if they betray their partner’s trust. Antisocial individuals are not simply acting in their economic self-interest, because they harshly punish those who do not reciprocate their trust, although that reduces their economic payoff, and they do so nonimpulsively and in a very calculated manner. Antisocial individuals honor others’ trust significantly less (if they cannot be punished) but also, harshly punish those who betray their trust. Overall, it seems that antisocial individuals have beliefs and behaviors based on a view of the world that assumes that most others are as antisocial as they themselves are.

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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
Uncontrolled Keywords:Trust, antisocial, personality, punishment, person situation
Language:English
Date:25 June 2019
Deposited On:21 Jan 2020 14:04
Last Modified:22 Jan 2020 08:39
Publisher:National Academy of Sciences
ISSN:0027-8424
OA Status:Green
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1820133116
Official URL:https://www.pnas.org/content/116/26/12781

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