Experimental Economics

, Volume 15, Issue 1, pp 158–175 | Cite as

Self-interest and fairness: self-serving choices of justice principles

  • Ismael Rodriguez-LaraEmail author
  • Luis Moreno-Garrido


We introduce non-enforceable property rights over a bargaining surplus in a dictator game with production, where the agent’s effort is differentially rewarded and subsequently determines the size of the surplus. Using experimental data, we elicit individual preferences over the egalitarian, accountability and libertarian principles and provide evidence to support the inability of these justice principles to individually account for the observed behavior. We show that the justice principle that can be used to explain dictators’ choices depends on whether dictators are paid more or less than recipients for their effort. Our findings suggest that dictators do employ justice principles in self-serving ways and choose in each context the justice principle that maximizes their financial payoffs.


Dictator game Justice principles Self-interest Self-serving bias 

JEL Classification

C91 D3 D63 D64 P14 


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Supplementary material


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Copyright information

© Economic Science Association 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dpto. Analisis EconomicoERI-CES Universidad de ValenciaValenciaSpain
  2. 2.Dpto. Fundamentos del Analisis EconomicoUniversidad de AlicanteAlicanteSpain

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