Natural-field Dictator Game Shows No Altruistic Giving

JEFFREY WINKING, NICHOLAS MIZER
EVOLUTION AND HUMAN BEHAVIOR 34.4 (2013): 288-293

Abstract: Economic experiments are increasingly being used in a number of research areas and are a major source of data guiding the debate surrounding the nature of human prosociality. The degree to which experiment behavior accurately reflects external behavior, however, has long been debated. A number of recent studies have revealed just how remarkably sensitive participants are to cues of a lack of anonymity. Similarly, others have suggested that the very structure of the experimental context induces participants to choose prosocial options. In order to truly create anonymous conditions and to eliminate the effects of experimental contexts, participants must not be aware of their participation. Here, the authors present the results of a natural-field Dictator Game in which participants are presented with a believable endowment and provided an opportunity to divide the endowment with a stranger without knowing that they are taking part in an experiment. No participants gave any portion of the endowment to the stranger. Baseline frequencies of prosocial behaviors exhibited under experimental contexts might therefore be substantially inflated compared to those exhibited under natural contexts.