"Actions and the self: I give therefore I am?"

Tobias Regner and Astrid Matthey

Self-signaling models predict less selfish behavior in a probabilistic giving setting as individuals tend to invest in a pro-social identity. However, there is also substantial evidence that people tend to exploit situational excuses for selfish choices (for instance, risk) and behave more selfishly. We contrast these two motivations experimentally in order to test which one is more prevalent in a reciprocal giving setting. Trustees' back transfer choices are elicited for five different transfer levels of the trustor. Moreover, we ask trustees to provide their back transfer schedule for different scenarios that vary the implementation probability of the back transfer. This design allows us to identify subjects who reciprocate and analyze how these reciprocators respond to the provision of moral wiggle room. Our results indicate that self-deception is prevalent when subjects make the back transfer choice. Twice as many subjects seem to exploit situational excuses than subjects who appear to invest in a pro-social identity.

Actions and the self: I give therefore I am?