Experimental Economics

, Volume 16, Issue 2, pp 170–189 | Cite as

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
  • Stephen V. Burks
  • Jeffrey Carpenter
  • Lorenz Götte
  • Karsten Maurer
  • Daniele NosenzoEmail author
  • Ruth Potter
  • Kim Rocha
  • Aldo Rustichini


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 



We thank the editor and two anonymous referees for useful comments. We received helpful comments from Simon Gächter, John Galbraith, Herbert Gintis, Nikos Nikiforakis and participants at the 2011 International Meeting of the Economic Science Association in Chicago (IL). The Truckers and Turnover Project acknowledges financial and in-kind support from the cooperating firm, and financial support from the MacArthur Foundation’s Research Network on the Nature and Origin of Norms and Preferences, the Sloan Foundation’s Industry Studies Program, the Trucking Industry Program at Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of Nottingham, and the University of Minnesota, Morris. Götte acknowledges support from the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, and Nosenzo from the Leverhulme Trust (ECF/2010/0636). The views expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect those of the supporting entities.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Economic Science Association 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jon Anderson
    • 1
  • Stephen V. Burks
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  • Jeffrey Carpenter
    • 3
    • 5
  • Lorenz Götte
    • 3
    • 6
  • Karsten Maurer
    • 7
  • Daniele Nosenzo
    • 8
    • 9
    Email author
  • Ruth Potter
    • 1
  • Kim Rocha
    • 1
  • Aldo Rustichini
    • 10
    • 11
  1. 1.Division of Science and MathematicsUniversity of Minnesota MorrisMorrisUSA
  2. 2.Division of Social ScienceUniversity of Minnesota MorrisMorrisUSA
  3. 3.IZABonnGermany
  4. 4.CeDExUniversity of NottinghamNottinghamUK
  5. 5.Department of EconomicsMiddlebury CollegeMiddleburyUSA
  6. 6.Faculty of Business and EconomicsUniversity of LausanneLausanneSwitzerland
  7. 7.Department of StatisticsIowa State UniversityAmesUSA
  8. 8.School of EconomicsUniversity of NottinghamNottinghamUK
  9. 9.CeDExUniversity of NottinghamNottinghamUK
  10. 10.Department of EconomicsUniversity of Minnesota, Twin Cities55455USA
  11. 11.Faculty of EconomicsUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK

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