Determinants of Other-Regarding Behavior and the Private Provision of Public Goods

This thesis contributes to research that challenges the narrow self-interest assumption used in the standard economic model. The first part of the thesis includes three experimental studies on social preferences. The second part of the thesis includes three studies that fit into the literature on private provision of public goods.

Decades of experimental research with public goods, ultimatum, trust, and dictator games have shown that individuals forgo monetary payoffs for the benefit of others even in anonymous one-shot decisions. One explanation for this behavior is that individuals have a preference for fair distribution. However, behavior depends not only on the distribution of payoffs, but also on the process that leads to that distribution. Process-related characteristics include the intent of the decision makers involved and, relatedly, the extent to which causal responsibility can be attributed to them, the fairness of the procedures, or the adherence to certain social or moral norms. All three studies in the first part of this paper examine behavior in situations where decisions are likely to be influenced by consequences for the distribution of payoffs, but where other determinants are also likely to play a role. The studies examine (1) the role of a fair distribution on consumer behavior in the presence of price discrimination, (2) how various excuses arising from uncertainty about the consequences of one's actions for others influence selfish behavior, and (3) the role of observability of dishonesty in lying in an online environment.

The failure of markets to provide an efficient level of public goods is seen as one of the main reasons for government intervention. However, decades of research in behavioral economics show that private contributions are generally higher than pure self-interest predicts. Scholars have long been interested in understanding the underlying preferences for private contributions to public goods. This research has explored a range of motivations for contributions that go beyond pure self-interest, but has also led to possible explanations that fall within the realm of self-interest, such as short-term positive marginal utility or long-term signaling incentives. The second part of this thesis can be placed in this literature. Study four examines the impact of gamification on intrinsic motivation and performance in a task that mimics important features of so-called micro-tasks typically found in public goods crowdsourcing projects. Studies five and six examine digital public goods in the context of the EU REACH chemicals regulation, assess how effectively the public good is delivered, and discuss possible adaptations to increase incentives for individuals who voluntarily contribute to the good.