Journal Files A.A.S

EXPERIMENTS IN ALTRUISM

Dawes, Robin, et. al., "Cooperation for the Benefit of Us--Not Me or My Conscience," in Jane Mansbridge, ed., Beyond Self Interest, 1990. (cited by Ledyard, pp. 156-8)

Experiment I

Group of 9. Responses are anonymous.

Each given $5. Can keep if choose.

$10 bonus for each added defending on how many people give their original $5 to the group.

Non-contingent rule: If four others give, subject gets $10 and so do others. Subject can't make a difference. (Similar to unwitting free rider--action seem to make no difference.) Dominant strategy is to keep.

Contingent: If five including subject give, all get 10 each.

Results:

Both rule and discussion are significant.

W/O discussion:

1. Non-contingent -- 30% contributed

2. Contingent -- 45% contributed

With discussion:

Non-contingent -- 75%

2. Contingent -- 85%

Interpretation: Effect of self-interest shown by higher effect of contingent rule, but self-interest can't explain the non-contingent 30% or the 75% where people always receive a higher payoff by keeping.

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Dawes Experiment II: Pit conscience against caring. Vary identity of beneficiaries; one group has an initial discussion and then later is told that the group getting their money and whose action affect their payoff is not the group they previously interacted with while in the other group the group is kept intact.

Group of 7. Responses are anonymous.

Each given $6 to keep or give.

For each $6 given, experimenter adds 12; either to own or outside group. If subject keeps, has 6; if gives and no one else does, has zero; if all give, each in your group gets 12 or alternatively, each in another group gets 12.

Results: Discussion had an effect.

Thinking one's group would be the recipient is significant.

Interpretation: If discussion serves to arouse one's conscience, then who receives the gift should make no difference. Discussion does not enhance contribution when beneficiaries are outside strangers, therefore, reject clear conscience hypothesis.

Follow up: (talking to the subjects)

In absence of discussion, co-operators cite doing the right thing as the reason for their behavior. Sen refers to this as "commitment."

With discussion, co-operators cite group welfare.

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E. Hoffman, McCabe and Smith Experiment

"Social Distance and Other-Regarding Behavior in Dictator Games," American Economic Review, June 1996, 653-60.

Dictator games: One person given a $10 pot and has option to share or not.

"Anonymous" -- 18% offered zero.

Double blind -- 64% offered zero. 8% offered more than $4.

Ultimatum games: One person given a pot and must propose a split. If accepted the split occurs and if rejected, no one receives anything.

Modal offer is to divide the pie in half.

HMS hypothesize that the difference between merely "anonymous" and the double blind experiment is due to the concept of social distance or sense of coupling between the dictator and his/her counterpart or others who know the dictator's decision. So they vary the language and procedures that bear on the degree of the dictator's anonymity and social isolation. They hypothesize that dictators give to their counterparts because of their expectation of reciprocity coming from previous experience. The data indicates that as the anonymity and social isolation is weakened, the offer distributions decrease.

"We interpret the data as generally supportive of the economic assumption of self-interested behavior."

Grossman and Eckel found that when the dictator makes an offer not to another person like himself or herself, but to a charity (American Red Cross) there is a significant increase in the distribution of offers using charity. "But the American Red Cross has a long history of providing benefits, thus inviting reciprocity." (But unlike Dawes, Hoffman et al. Did not bother to ask people, preferring their own interpretation to the untrustworthy statements of people.) HMS conclude that "People have unconscious, preprogrammed, rules of social exchange behavior that suit them well in the repeated game of life's interaction with other people."

HMS frame the problem similar to Axelrod's tit for tat. In repeated games it is self interestedly rational to cooperate when you have a reasonable expectation that others will do likewise. This saves the self interest assumption. What is the point? Are we basically selfish: Or, are we basically loving and caring and can only be dislodged from it by emphasizing unusual isolation--hey, you are really, really alone.

Why do some work so hard to prove that we are selfish and only help[ others so they will help us--not love others because it feels good. Why do they insist that only goods feel good and that we love only to get goods?

Do H,M,& S confound the chance for reciprocity with caring? These experiments not only destroy the opportunity for reciprocity, but also the possibility for caring. Thus it cannot test for the difference. One can not derive utility from another's welfare if that person in a faceless post you can never see again. The emphasis on double blind tells the subject that this is an unusual case (not everyday) and perhaps unusual behavior is called for. As perilous as it may be, do we have any choice but to get out of our armchair and talk to people????

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