Experimental Economics

, Volume 17, Issue 4, pp 501–511 | Cite as

An experimental study of prosocial motivation among criminals

  • Sigbjørn Birkeland
  • Alexander W. Cappelen
  • Erik Ø. Sørensen
  • Bertil Tungodden
Original Paper

Abstract

The fact that criminal behavior typically has negative consequences for others provides a compelling reason to think that criminals lack prosocial motivation. This paper reports the results from two dictator game experiments designed to study the prosocial motivation of criminals. In a lab experiment involving prisoners, we find a striking similarity in the prosocial behavior of criminals and non-criminals, both when they interact with criminals and when they interact with non-criminals. Similarly, in an Internet experiment on a large sample from the general population, we find no difference in the prosocial behavior of individuals with and without a criminal record. We argue that our findings provide evidence of criminals being as prosocially motivated as non-criminals in an important type of distributive situations.

Keywords

Prosocial motivation Criminals 

JEL Classification

C91 D63 K40 

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Economic Science Association 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sigbjørn Birkeland
    • 1
  • Alexander W. Cappelen
    • 1
  • Erik Ø. Sørensen
    • 1
  • Bertil Tungodden
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of EconomicsNHH Norwegian School of EconomicsBergenNorway

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