Know Your Neighbor: The Impact of Social Context on Fairness Behavior
Paper published in PLoS ONE: 2018, 13(4), 1-11
29 Pages Posted: 10 Feb 2020
Date Written: June 6, 2018
Laboratory experiments offer an opportunity to isolate human behaviors with a level of precision that is often difficult to obtain using other (survey-based) methods. Yet, experimental tasks are often stripped of any social context, implying that inferences may not directly map to real world contexts. We randomly allocate 632 individuals (grouped randomly into 316 dyads) from small villages in Sierra Leone to four versions of the ultimatum game. In addition to the classic ultimatum game, where both the sender and receiver are anonymous, we reveal the identity of the sender, the receiver or both. This design allows us to explore how fairness behavior is affected by social context in a natural setting where players are drawn from populations that are well-acquainted. We find that average offers increase when the receiver's identity is revealed, suggesting that anonymous ultimatum games underestimate expected fair offers. This study suggest that researchers wishing to relate laboratory behavior to contexts in which the participants are well-acquainted should consider revealing the identities of the players during game play.
Keywords: Experiments, Sierra Leone, Social Context, Altruism
JEL Classification: D64, C90
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation