Theoretical Economics, Volume 7, Number 1 (January 2012)

Theoretical Economics 7 (2012), 99–124

Ashamed to be selfish

David Dillenberger, Philipp Sadowski


We study a decision maker (DM) who has preferences over choice problems, which are sets of payoff-allocations between herself and a passive recipient. An example of such a set is the collection of possible allocations in the classic dictator game. The choice of an allocation from the set is observed by the recipient, whereas the choice of the set itself is not. Behaving selfishly under observation, in the sense of not choosing the normatively best allocation, inflicts shame on DM. We derive a representation that identifies DM's private ranking of allocations, her subjective norm, and shame. The normatively best allocation can be further characterized as the Nash solution of a bargaining game induced by the second-stage choice problem.

Keywords: Shame, selfishness, subjective norm, dictator game, Nash bargaining solution

JEL classification: C78, D63, D64, D80, D81

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