"Motivational Cherry Picking"

Tobias Regner and Gerhard Riener

We construct a simple three person trust game with one trustor and two trustees. The trustor has the possibility to either trust both trustees or none, while the trustees make their decisions either sequentially or simultaneously, depending on the treatment. When trustees play sequentially follower trustees are informed about the leader's choice. Follower trustees are significantly more selfish than trustees in the Simultaneous-Move treatment and leader trustees. They appear to cherry pick the motivation that materially serves them best: When the leader trustee plays selfish, they tend to conform; when the leader makes a pro-social choice, followers seem to perceive the responsibility towards the trustor as already fulfilled by the leader. It seems that excuses for selfish behavior, introduced by a small change of the structure of social interaction, have a profound effect on trustee choices.

Motivational Cherry Picking