Munich Personal RePEc Archive

Minimal Social Cues in the Dictator Game

Rigdon, Mary and Ishii, Keiko and Watabe, Motoki and Kitayama, Shinobu (2008): Minimal Social Cues in the Dictator Game.

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Abstract

This paper reports results of an incentivized laboratory experiment manipulating an extremely weak social cue in the Dictator Game. Prior to making their decision, we present dictators with a simple visual stimlulus: either three dots in a “watching-eyes” configuration, or three dots in a neutral configuration. The watching-eyes configuration is suggestive of a schematic face—a stimuli that is known to weakly activate the fusiform face area of the brain (Tong, et al., 2000; Bednar and Miikkulainen, 2003; Johnson and Morton, 1991). Given the experimental evidence for automatic priming of watching eyes of others, it is thus reasonable to hypothesize that even though the social cue is very weak, this activation might be sufficient to produce a significant change in social behavior. Our results demonstrate that such a weak social cue does increase giving behavior—even under conditions of complete anonymity—and this difference in behavior across subjects is entirely explained by differences in the choice behavior of males. In fact, males in our treatment condition, who typically act more selfishly than do females in conditions of complete anonymity, give twice as much to anonymous recipients than females give.

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