Experimental Economics

, Volume 16, Issue 2, pp 170-189

First online:

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 AndersonAffiliated withDivision of Science and Mathematics, University of Minnesota Morris
  • , Stephen V. BurksAffiliated withDivision of Social Science, University of Minnesota MorrisIZACeDEx, University of Nottingham
  • , Jeffrey CarpenterAffiliated withIZADepartment of Economics, Middlebury College
  • , Lorenz GötteAffiliated withIZAFaculty of Business and Economics, University of Lausanne
  • , Karsten MaurerAffiliated withDepartment of Statistics, Iowa State University
  • , Daniele NosenzoAffiliated withSchool of Economics, University of NottinghamCeDEx, University of Nottingham Email author 
  • , Ruth PotterAffiliated withDivision of Science and Mathematics, University of Minnesota Morris
  • , Kim RochaAffiliated withDivision of Science and Mathematics, University of Minnesota Morris
  • , Aldo RustichiniAffiliated withDepartment of Economics, University of Minnesota, Twin CitiesFaculty of Economics, University of Cambridge

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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.


Methodology Selection bias Laboratory experiment Field experiment Other-regarding behavior Social preferences Prisoner’s dilemma Truckload Trucker

JEL Classification

C90 D03