Technical Report Incentivising the Social Discounting Task: A laboratory experiment

BOOYSEN, Frederik  ,  MOLOI, Tshepo  ,  MUNRO, Alistair  ,  GUVURIRO, Sevias  ,  CAMPHER, Celeste

16-292017-01 , GRIPS Policy Research Center
Altruism is one of the single most important social preferences driving human behaviour. In Psychology experiments, the Social Discounting Task is employed as a measure of altruism. A conventional laboratory experiment was conducted with 117 undergraduate students, with students randomly assigned to complete an incentivized and un-incentivized Social Discounting Task. In accordance with the 1/d law of giving, the results exhibit the expected inverse relationship between social distance and altruism. There is weak evidence that incentivizing the Social Discounting Task impacts the measurement of altruism in a student population. More specifically, subjects are more altruistic when incentivized, possibly due to enforced reciprocity. At the same time, making payments real influence the identity of the target recipients: paying makes subjects more likely to choose people who are physically and psychologically close at high ranks, and more likely to report greater physical and psychological distance to subjects at lower ranks. Further research is required to verify the robustness of this result. The study also shows that among students family members are more altruistic toward each other as are those exhibiting greater intergenerational solidarity. Preferences for altruism in this student population is no different from WEIRD subject populations.
JEL Classification Codes: C91, D64

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