Essays on Social Preferences in Economic Experiments

by Sara Elisa Kettner

Institution: Universit├Ąt Heidelberg
Department: The Faculty of Economics and Social Studies
Degree: PhD
Year: 2015
Record ID: 1110591
Full text PDF: http://www.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/archiv/18324


The motivation for this thesis is to further extend research on factors influencing decision making in the specific context of social preferences and prosocial behavior in economic experiments. Next to this common leitmotif, the attention of the individual chapters is directed to different aspects of prosocial behavior. On the one hand, individual attributes or individual attributes in interaction with design variations are investigated. On the other hand, motives underlying behavioral regularities are examined. Furthermore, both abstract as well as context specific settings using real world examples are applied. Following a general introduction, Chapters 2 to 4 focus on prosocial behavior in the dictator game. Specifically, Chapter 3 investigates old age and prosocial behavior comparing two age groups, i.e., young students and the elderly, while testing for the possibility of behavioral differences stemming from experimental confounds. Therefore, the framing of the decision task, stake size, as well as the level of experience in experiments are varied. We initially confirm the elderly participants to transfer larger amounts than the standard student participants regardless of framing and stakes. However, the elderly and the inexperienced student participants are not different in their observed behavior. Hence, we cannot rule out that confounds related to the lack of experience in experiments drive behavioral differences among the age groups. Chapter 4 examines the influence of gender-pairing and framing on dictator transfers. Instead of matching participants with an androgynous recipient, information on his/her gender is made salient. The main goal is to identify whether this information on recipient gender accommodates framing effects. The results show that opposite-sex transfers are higher than same-sex transfers but only significantly higher in the take framing. Hence, we suggest to control for the gender composition of experimental samples when testing gender interaction and framing. Chapters 5 and 6 center on behavior in a real world public goods environment. Following a general introduction, the public goods context, namely the voluntary provision of climate change mitigation, and the contribution task are presented. Chapter 6 addresses this climate change contribution task under an experimental manipulation introducing social information. We investigate the underlying causal mechanism testing whether social information affects descriptive social norms (beliefs) and, through norms, contribution behavior. Additionally, we examine whether anchoring effects are present. The results are in favor of the proposed mechanism and we find that social norms are mediating social information and contributions. Furthermore, we can identify why, for certain groups of individuals, social information does not affect contribution behavior. Lastly, anchoring effects do not appear to be relevant. The final chapter concludes the thesis with a summary and discusses potential extensions of the experiments.