Pérez, Ernesto María Gavassa. Working Paper. “Moral Rules and Social Preferences in Co-operation Problems.”

In this paper I introduce the MRC framework, which presents two theories about how moral rules drive cooperative behaviour: blame avoidance, or an imperative to avoid doing what one considers as blameworthy, and praise seeking, or an imperative to do what one considers as praiseworthy. Using this new framework, I test the extent to which these two moral rules and a set of preference-based theories (selfishness, inequality aversion, reciprocity, spite, social efficiency and maximin) can explain people’s attitudes to cooperation in two co-operation problems: social dilemmas, where the individual and social optima are misaligned, and common interest games, where the individual and social optima are aligned. My results suggest that (i) blame avoidance, inequality aversion and maximin preferences are the best candidate explanations of people’s attitudes to cooperation in both problems; (ii) praise seeking, reciprocity, social efficiency, and selfishness are also explanations of attitudes to cooperation in common interest games; and (iii) spite is the least promising explanation of attitudes to cooperation in either co-operation problem.

Pérez, Ernesto María Gavassa, and Michalis Drouvelis. In Preparation. “Asymmetrical redistribution over gains and losses – the role of other-regarding preferences and moral rules.”

In this paper we study the asymmetry in redistributive behaviour, as measured by donations in dictator games, over gains and losses. According to classical models of other-regarding preferences, no asymmetry should exist as far as stakes and the redistribution level are kept constant in both domains. Including a parameter of loss aversion is able to predict more selfish behaviour under losses; but, crucially, the predictive success of such models depend on subjects with higher levels of loss aversion being more selfish over losses, which need not hold empirically. In a pre-registered study, we analyse at the individual level the predictive power of several loss-aversion-augmented models of other-regarding preferences and two new models of moral rules.

Soto-Mota, Pablo Ignacio, and Ernesto María Gavassa Pérez. In Preparation. “Folk Morality an Behaviour in the non-identity problem.”

Prominent among contemporary ethics is the debate as to whether identity matters for moral judgments. We face decisions daily that may impact who gets to live (e.g. surgery) or to die (e.g., abortion, euthanasia), and such decisions may not only influence the targeted person but also i) other people within a population; and even ii) the identity of those who come to exist in the future. A prominent example of this non-identity problem is linked to environmental decisions, where less sustainable behaviour in the present may influence the amount and identity of people who get to live in the future. Despite the great deal of research on egalitarianism in behavioural economics, little to no research has been done regarding the non-identity problem. However, such problems are a fruitful new experimental paradigm as behaviour in it has the potential to be against what would be predicted by most, if not all, models of other-regarding preferences. In this paper we introduce an experimental game that captures the qualitative features of the non-identity problem for the first time, and we analyse behaviour and moral judgments in the game. By comparing the distribution of choices and predicted choices by a set of moral rules, we are able to document whether simple moral rules are able, on average, to causally drive a behaviour that is a limitation of canonical models of other-regarding preferences.

Pérez, Ernesto María Gavassa. In Preparation. “Disinterested Morality in Non-cooperative Games.”

This paper introduces the concept of impartial, non-utility based morality to the theory of non-cooperative games. In non-cooperative games, the mathematical description of a game requires a set of players, the strategy set of each player, and a payoff function mapping each strategy combination into the real number space. Behavioural economics broadened the preference domain, thereby changing, for an arbitrarily strong concern to social motives, the value that a payoff function assigns to a given strategy combination for a socially-oriented player. By contrast, the methodology I propose adds an impartial moral judgment function, mapping each strategy combination to the real number space, to the previous paradigm. Using this function I can partition the set of strategies for each individual into morally 'acceptable' and morally 'prohibitive' subsets of strategies. Building on this terminology, I formally define the main concept of the new methodology (Moral Rule) and present best response functions for two moral rules based on moral philosophy. Furthermore, I present some examples to show how the new methodology can be applied to characteristic games used in the literature and end up by discussing the motivation for the new theory, its roots in moral philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience, and its main departures from the classical approach.


[Manuscript in preparation]

Cubitt, Robin P., Simon Gächter, and Ernesto María Gavassa Pérez. In Preparation. “The Morality of Voluntary Cooperation.”

We investigate experimentally the role of moral judgments in explaining the provision and maintenance of public goods. With three tasks we elicit (a) each subject's moral judgments of all strategy combinations of the public goods game; (b) each subject's contribution for each feasible contribution of the other group member (contribution preferences); (c) each subject's contribution and belief about the contribution of the other group member. We find that moral motivations to avoid blame and seek praise are one of the causal mechanisms underlying people's behaviour in providing and maintaining public goods. More specifically, we find that (i) on top of strong reciprocity, motivations to avoid being blameworthy explain people's contribution preferences; (ii) motivations to avoid being blameworthy and to seek being praiseworthy explain people's contribution decisions in maintenance problems even when controlling for the effect of contribution preferences.