Experimental Economics

, Volume 21, Issue 2, pp 316–336 | Cite as

Heterogeneous guilt sensitivities and incentive effects

  • Charles Bellemare
  • Alexander SebaldEmail author
  • Sigrid Suetens
Original Paper


Psychological games of guilt aversion assume that preferences depend on (beliefs about) beliefs and on the guilt sensitivity of the decision-maker. We present an experiment designed to measure guilt sensitivities at the individual level for various stake sizes. We use the data to estimate a structural choice model that allows for heterogeneity, and permits that guilt sensitivities depend on stake size. We find substantial heterogeneity of guilt sensitivities in our population, with 60% of decision makers displaying stake-dependent guilt sensitivity. For these decision makers, we find that average guilt sensitivities are significantly different from zero for all stakes considered, while significantly decreasing with the level of stakes.


Guilt sensitivity Psychological game theory Heterogeneity Stakes Dictator game 

JEL Classification

A13 C91 



The authors thank audiences of seminars at the universities of Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Frankfurt, Gothenborg, Heidelberg, Innsbruck, Mannheim, Munich, Pennsylvania, and Tilburg, at the Max Planck Institute of Economics in Jena, at the Nordic Conference of Behavioral and Experimental Economics in Stockholm, and at IMEBE in Madrid for helpful comments. Furthermore, we would like to thank the editor and two anonymous referees for very helpful comments. Suetens acknowledges financial support from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) through the VIDI program (Project No. 452-11-012).

Supplementary material

10683_2017_9543_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (46 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (pdf 46 KB)


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Copyright information

© Economic Science Association 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Charles Bellemare
    • 1
  • Alexander Sebald
    • 2
    Email author
  • Sigrid Suetens
    • 3
  1. 1.Département d’économiqueUniversité Laval, CRREPQuebec CityCanada
  2. 2.Department of EconomicsUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark
  3. 3.CentER, and TILECTilburg UniversityTilburgThe Netherlands

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