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Fair Play — A Question of Self-Image?

Why do people behave selfishly and accept that their behaviour may have negative consequences for others? Astrid Matthey and Tobias Regner from the Max Planck Institute of Economics in Jena investigated this question in a laboratory experiment. They found that such behaviour often depends on whether information about the consequences for others can be ignored. Based on their findings, the researchers believe that conclusions can be drawn on, for instance, how the marketing of fair trade products could be improved.

The researchers had 90 test subjects divide sums of money between themselves and anonymous co-players in the course of four different rounds of a game. During some of the rounds, the subjects received precise information about how their decisions would affect the payments made to their unknown co-players. In other rounds, the subjects themselves could decide whether they would like to find out about the consequences of their distribution decisions or whether they would prefer to conceal this information. “We found that although there are people who act either selfishly (“convinced pro-self”) or fairly (“genuine pro-socials”),” explains Tobias Regner, “many individuals move in the grey area between these extremes. They act fairly if the consequences of their action for others are clear to them. However, if they have the opportunity to ignore these consequences, they do just that and act in their own interests.”

Read the original article at: Science Daily News

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