Wednesday, May 1, 2013
Bray Theory Workshop
On Blame and Reciprocity: Theory and Experiments
Andrew Schotter, Professor of Economics, New York University
The theory of reciprocity is predicated on the assumption that people are willing to reward kind acts and to punish unkind ones. This assumption raises the question as to how to define "kindness". In this paper, we offer a novel definition of kindness based on a notion of blame. This notion states that in judging whether player i is kind or unkind to player j, player j has to put himself in the position of player i and ask if he would act in a manner that is worse than i does. If player j would act in a worse manner than player i acted, then we say that player j does not blame player i. If, however, player j would be nicer than player i was, then we say that player j blames player i .We consider this notion a natural, intuitive and empirically functional way to explain the motives of people engaged in reciprocal behavior. After developing the conceptual framework, we test this concept by using data from two laboratory experiments and find significant support for the theory.