Separating Gratitude from Guilt in the Laboratory
22 Pages Posted: 16 Oct 2011 Last revised: 19 Dec 2017
Date Written: October 14, 2011
In contrast to guilt based reciprocity, which hypothesizes that reciprocity is an increasing function of the 2nd order expectation of the trustors’ 1st order expectations for reciprocation, we tested for reciprocity that is a decreasing function of the trustees’ 2nd order expectations, i.e., people can reciprocate out of gratitude. To unambiguously decrease the 2nd order expectations in our treatment, we broke up a standard trust game into a two-stage dictator game where the 1st round dictators were not informed about the possibility of a 2nd round. Furthermore, the 2nd dictators could “silently exit” by not sending anything to the 1st round dictators. We found a significant increase in both the amount of reciprocation and the number of people reciprocating as compared to our standard trust and dictator games controls. Most 2nd dictators became poorer than 1st dictators so inequality aversion can be ruled out. We found support for our hypothesis in the prior data of others who tested for guilt based reciprocity. Our result also seems to reconcile conflicting results in that literature. To our knowledge, this is the first paper which shows that kindness distinct from guilt, shame, efficiency, and inequity aversion could be a motive for reciprocity. Our strong positive reciprocity result also suggests why it has been difficult to find in the past.
Keywords: guilt, gratitude, reciprocity, trust game, doubleblind, silent exiting
JEL Classification: A12, A13, C72, C91, D64
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation