Public Choice

, Volume 117, Issue 3, pp 295–314

Heterogeneous Preferences and Collective Action


  • T.K. Ahn
    • Department of Political ScienceFlorida State University
  • Elinor Ostrom
    • Department of Political Science Workshop in Political Theory and Policy AnalysisIndiana University
  • James M. Walker
    • Department of Economics, Workshop in Political Theory and Policy AnalysisIndiana University

DOI: 10.1023/B:PUCH.0000003739.54365.fd

Cite this article as:
Ahn, T., Ostrom, E. & Walker, J.M. Public Choice (2003) 117: 295. doi:10.1023/B:PUCH.0000003739.54365.fd


In recent years, scholarshave turned to alternative representationsof utility to capture motivationalheterogeneity across individuals. In theresearch reported here, we examine twomodels of heterogeneous utility –linear-altruism and inequity-aversion – inthe context of two-person, social dilemmagames. Empirical tests are conducteddrawing on data from experiments andsurveys. We find that the model ofinequity-aversion accounts for asubstantial proportion of the preferencetypes and behavior that are not explainedby the standard model of self-interestedpreferences. In contrast, the altruismmodel does not provide a significantincrease in explanatory power over theinequity-aversion model.

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© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2003