Social image or social Norm? Re-examining the audience effect in dictator game Experiments

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Andreoni and Bernheim (2009) consider a variant of the dictator game in which a recipient does not know whether an allocation decision was made by a dictator or by an exogenous force, called “nature”. They find that as the likelihood of nature's intervention increased, more subjects mimicked the nature's move. We replicate their experiment, and examine a new treatment in which a recipient is always informed about whether a dictator or nature made a decision. We find that (i) many dictators’ decisions were affected by nature's intervention even when the recipient was informed of whether the dictator or nature had made the decision, which suggests that the intervention altered not only the incentive to signal one's willingness to comply with the social norm but also the social norm itself (i.e., the perception of an appropriate action), but (ii) still dictators’ behavior under the two treatments differed significantly, which suggests that the audience effect also matters greatly.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)70-78
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Apr

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Syngjoo Choi, Duk Gyoo Kim, Wooyoung Lim, and the participants of the monthly seminar (Microeconomics) of Korean Econometric Society for valuable comments. We also thank Miho Hong, Jisu Lee, and Sangyoon Nam for research assistance. All remaining errors are ours. This work was supported by the Yonsei University Future-leading Research Initiative of 2017 (RMS2 2017-22-0049).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Applied Psychology
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Social Sciences(all)


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