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Facing Yourself: A Note on Self-image

Numerous signaling models in economics assume image concerns. These take two forms, as relating either to social image or self-image. While empirical work has identified the behavioral importance of the former, less is known about the role of enhanced self-image concerns. In this paper, we exogenously vary self-image concerns in manipulating self-directed attention and study the impact on moral behavior. The choice context in the experiment is whether subjects inflict a painful electric shock on another subject to receive a monetary payment. Three between-subjects conditions are studied. In the main treatment, subjects see their own face on the decision screen in a real-time video feed. In the two control conditions, subjects see either no video at all or a neutral video. We find that the exogenous increase in self-image concerns significantly reduces the fraction of subjects inflicting pain. The finding suggests the importance of self-awareness for moral decision making with implications for theory as well as practical applications to promote socially desirable outcomes.

Authors: 
Armin Falk, briq
Publication Date: 
June, 2017
HCEO Working Groups: 
Publication Status: 
Document Number: 
2017-048
File Description: 
First version, June 8, 2017