Keeping others in our mind or in our heart? Distribution games under cognitive load

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Hauge, Karen, Kjell Arne Brekke, Lars-Olof Johansson, Olof Stenman-Johansson and Henrik Svedsäter




Andre skrifter
Working paper in Economics no 600, University of Gothenburg


It has recently been argued that giving is spontaneous while greed is calculated (Rand et al. 2012). If greed is calculated we would expect that cognitive load, which is assumed to reduce the influence of cognitive processes, should affect greed. In this paper we study both charitable giving and the behavior of dictators under high and low cognitive load, to test if greed is affected by the load. In the dictator games we use both a give frame, where the dictators are given an amount that they may share with a partner, and a take frame, where dictators may take from an amount initially allocated to the partner. The results show consistently that the behavioral effect in terms of allocated money of the induced load is small if at all existent. At the same time, follow-up questions indicate that the subjects’ decisions are more driven by their feelings and less driven by their thoughts under cognitive load.


C91, D64


cognitive load, dictator games, social preferences, pro-social behavior, altruism


Oppdragsgiver: Norges forskningsråd
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