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On the Validity of Probabilistic (and Cost-Saving) Incentives in Dictator Games: A Systematic Test

Walkowitz, Gari (2018): On the Validity of Probabilistic (and Cost-Saving) Incentives in Dictator Games: A Systematic Test.

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Abstract

Driven by methodological concerns, theoretical considerations, and previous evidence, we systematically test the validity of common dictator-game variants with probabilistic incentives. We include four approaches and compare them to a standard dictator game: involving fewer receivers than dictators; paying only some subjects or decisions; role uncertainty at the time of the transfer decision. We also relate the dictator-game variants to established complementary individual difference measures of pro-sociality: social value orientation, personal values, a donation to charity, and Big Five personality facors. Our data show that dictator behavior is quite sensitive to the applied methods. The standard version of the dictator game has the highest validity. Involving fewer receivers than dictators and not paying for all decisions yields comparably valid results. By contrast, when only some subjects are paid or where subjects face uncertainty about their final player role, the expected associations with complementary pro-sociality are distorted. Under role uncertainty, generosity is biased upwards. We conclude that the validity of the dictator-game outcomes is highly sensitive to the applied methods.

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