Uncertainty Motivates Morality: Evidence and Theory

70 Pages Posted: 12 Feb 2021 Last revised: 24 Mar 2021

See all articles by Yiting Chen

Yiting Chen

National University of Singapore (NUS), Department of Economics

Songfa Zhong

National University of Singapore (NUS) - Department of Economics

Date Written: March 1, 2021

Abstract

Uncertainty motivates a wide range of human behavior, as individuals are disposed to pursue a feeling of certainty. We propose that uncertainty motivates morality, and test the hypothesis by examining moral decisions when individuals face an uncertain situation compared with all degenerate certain situations. We find that uncertainty drives individuals to share more in a dictator game experiment and lie less in a dice game experiment. As standard models of choice under uncertainty cannot accommodate these observations, we propose a theoretical framework whereby individuals perceive a connection between the morality of their behavior and the outcome resulting from uncertainty.

Keywords: uncertainty, moral behavior, social preference, lying aversion, experiment

JEL Classification: C91, D81, D91

Suggested Citation

Chen, Yiting and Zhong, Songfa, Uncertainty Motivates Morality: Evidence and Theory (March 1, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3737959 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3737959

Yiting Chen (Contact Author)

National University of Singapore (NUS), Department of Economics ( email )

Singapore
Singapore

Songfa Zhong

National University of Singapore (NUS) - Department of Economics ( email )

1 Arts Link, AS2 #06-02
Singapore 117570, Singapore 119077
Singapore

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