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The Many Faces of Human Sociality: Uncovering the Distribution and Stability of Social Preferences

We uncover heterogeneity in social preferences with a structural model that accounts for outcome-based and reciprocity-based social preferences and assigns individuals to endogenously determined preferences types. We find that neither at the aggregate level nor when we allow for several distinct preference types do purely selfish types emerge, suggesting that other-regarding preferences are the rule and not the exemption. There are three temporally stable other-regarding types. When ahead, all types value others' payoffs more than when behind. The first, strongly altruistic type puts a large weight on others' payoffs even when behind and displays moderate levels of reciprocity. The second, moderately altruistic type also puts positive weight on others’ payoff, yet at a lower level, and displays no positive reciprocity. The third, behindness averse type puts a large negative weight on others’ payoffs when behind and is selfish otherwise. In addition, we show that individual-specific estimates of preferences offer only very modest improvements in out-of-sample predictions compared to our three-type model. Thus, a parsimonious model with three types captures the bulk of the information about subjects' social preferences.

Authors: 
Adrian Bruhin, University of Lausanne
Ernst Fehr, Universität Zürich
Daniel Schunk, Johanes Gutenberg - Universität Mainz
Publication Date: 
October, 2018
HCEO Working Groups: 
Publication Status: 
Document Number: 
2018-079
File Description: 
First version, February 8, 2018