Experimental Economics

, Volume 16, Issue 2, pp 170–189

Self-selection and variations in the laboratory measurement of other-regarding preferences across subject pools: evidence from one college student and two adult samples


  • Jon Anderson
    • Division of Science and MathematicsUniversity of Minnesota Morris
  • Stephen V. Burks
    • Division of Social ScienceUniversity of Minnesota Morris
    • IZA
    • CeDExUniversity of Nottingham
  • Jeffrey Carpenter
    • IZA
    • Department of EconomicsMiddlebury College
  • Lorenz Götte
    • IZA
    • Faculty of Business and EconomicsUniversity of Lausanne
  • Karsten Maurer
    • Department of StatisticsIowa State University
    • School of EconomicsUniversity of Nottingham
    • CeDExUniversity of Nottingham
  • Ruth Potter
    • Division of Science and MathematicsUniversity of Minnesota Morris
  • Kim Rocha
    • Division of Science and MathematicsUniversity of Minnesota Morris
  • Aldo Rustichini
    • Department of EconomicsUniversity of Minnesota, Twin Cities
    • Faculty of EconomicsUniversity of Cambridge

DOI: 10.1007/s10683-012-9327-7

Cite this article as:
Anderson, J., Burks, S.V., Carpenter, J. et al. Exp Econ (2013) 16: 170. doi:10.1007/s10683-012-9327-7


We measure the other-regarding behavior in samples from three related populations in the upper Midwest of the United States: college students, non-student adults from the community surrounding the college, and adult trainee truckers in a residential training program. The use of typical experimental economics recruitment procedures made the first two groups substantially self-selected. Because the context reduced the opportunity cost of participating dramatically, 91 % of the adult trainees solicited participated, leaving little scope for self-selection in this sample. We find no differences in the elicited other-regarding preferences between the self-selected adults and the adult trainees, suggesting that selection is unlikely to bias inferences about the prevalence of other-regarding preferences among non-student adult subjects. Our data also reject the more specific hypothesis that approval-seeking subjects are the ones most likely to select into experiments. Finally, we observe a large difference between self-selected college students and self-selected adults: the students appear considerably less pro-social.


MethodologySelection biasLaboratory experimentField experimentOther-regarding behaviorSocial preferencesPrisoner’s dilemmaTruckloadTrucker

JEL Classification


Supplementary material

10683_2012_9327_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (1.3 mb)
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© Economic Science Association 2012