Moral Rules and Social Preferences in Co-operation Problems

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.

Last updated on 11/06/2022