Advertisement

Experimental Economics

, Volume 16, Issue 3, pp 306–312 | Cite as

Shifting the blame to a powerless intermediary

  • Regine Oexl
  • Zachary J. Grossman
Manuscript

Abstract

We extend the results of Bartling and Fischbacher (Rev. Econ. Stud. 79(1):67–87, 2012) by showing that, by delegating to an intermediary, a dictator facing an allocation decision can effectively shift blame onto the delegee even when doing so necessarily eliminates the possibility of a fair outcome. Dictators choosing selfishly via an intermediary are punished less and earn greater profits than those who do so directly. Despite being powerless to influence the fairness of the outcome, an intermediary given the choice between two unfair outcomes is punished more than when the dictator chooses one directly. This is not the case when the intermediary merely can initiate the random selection of one of the outcomes. Our findings reinforce and clarify the usefulness of agency as a tool to evade perceived culpability.

Keywords

Intermediation Punishment Delegation Blame shifting 

Notes

Acknowledgements

We wish to thank Antonio Niocolò for many helpful discussions. We are also grateful for valuable comments from Gary Charness, Luca Corazzini, John Hamman, Marco Piovesan, two anonymous referees and the seminar participants at the International Meeting on Experimental and Behavioral Economics (IMEBE) 2011, Barcelona, 4th Maastricht Behavioral and Experimental Economics Symposium (M-BEES 2011), Maastricht and at the Work in Progress Seminar, Dipartimento di Economia Politica, Università degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca, May 2011.

Supplementary material

10683_2012_9335_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (305 kb)
APPENDIX (PDF 305 kB)

References

  1. Bartling, B., & Fischbacher, U. (2012). Shifting the blame: on delegation and responsibility. Review of Economic Studies, 79(1), 67–87. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bolton, G. E., & Ockenfels, A. (2000). ERC: a theory of equity, reciprocity, and competition. American Economic Review, 90(1), 166–193. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Charness, G., & Rabin, M. (2002). Understanding social preferences with simple tests. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 117(3), 817–869. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Coffman, L. C. (2011). Intermediation reduces punishment (and reward). American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, 3(4), 77–106. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Dana, J., Cain, D. M., & Dawes, R. M. (2006). What you don’t know won’t hurt me: costly (but quiet) exit in dictator games. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 100(2), 193–201. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Dana, J., Weber, R., & Kuang, J. (2007). Exploiting moral wiggle room: experiments demonstrating an illusory preference for fairness. Economic Theory, 33(1), 67–80. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Dufwenberg, M., & Kirchsteiger, G. (2004). A theory of sequential reciprocity. Games and Economic Behavior, 47(2), 268–298. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Fehr, E., & Schmidt, K. M. (1999). A theory of fairness, competition, and cooperation. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 114(3), 817–868. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Fershtman, C., & Gneezy, U. (2001). Strategic delegation: an experiment. Rand Journal of Economics, 32(2), 352–368. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Fischbacher, U. (2007). z-Tree: Zurich toolbox for ready-made economic experiments. Experimental Economics, 10(2), 171–178. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Greiner, B. (2003). An online recruitment system for economic experiments. Forschung und Wissenschaftliches Rechnen, 63, 79–93. Google Scholar
  12. Grossman, Z. (2010). Strategic ignorance and the robustness of social preferences (Tech. Rep. 1469100). Economics Working Paper Series, Department of Economics, University of California, Santa Barbara. Google Scholar
  13. Hamman, J. R., Loewenstein, G., & Weber, R. A. (2010). Self-interest through delegation: an additional rationale for the principal-agent relationship. American Economic Review, 100(4), 1826–1846. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Lazear, E. P., Malmendier, U., & Weber, R. A. (2012). Sorting in experiments with application to social preferences. American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, 4(1), 136–163. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Paharia, N., Kassam, K. S., Greene, J. D., & Bazerman, M. H. (2009). Dirty work, clean hands: the moral psychology of indirect agency. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 109(2), 134–141. CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Economic Science Association 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EconomicsUniversity of InnsbruckInnsbruckAustria
  2. 2.Department of EconomicsUniversity of California, Santa BarbaraSanta BarbaraUSA

Personalised recommendations