Ulrik Haagen Nielsen

Ulrik Haagen Nielsen: "Social Dilemma Behavior"

This thesis consists of five self-contained research contributions that all investigate how humans make decisions when they are confronted with a social dilemma.

One chapter investigates to what extent generous behavior is motivated by a desire to be good to others. This appears often not to be the case. Instead, many people are generous only because of a social norm or because they want to appear selfless to others.

Two chapters investigate whether it is more intuitive to people to act prosocially or selfishly. By comparing people’s decisions to how long it take them to make these, it appears that there exists a social norm about acting cooperatively when others do so, too, and that it is intuitive to follow this social norm. Hence, genuinely selfish people must resolve a time-consuming moral dilemma before they free ride on others. It is also found that being generous in general, and not only cooperative, appears to be intuitive to people across the broad Danish adult population.

Another chapter asks if the heterogeneity in adults' generosity can be explained by their socioeconomic background when measured by their parents' educational attainments. This follows up on a recent literature that has found that the socioeconomic status of children indeed correlates with how generous they are. It appears, however, that adults' other-regarding behavior, as opposed to children's, is not related to their socioeconomic background.

The final chapter studies if multiple decision-makers, who organize themselves in a committee and share the responsibility of their joint decision, are more likely than individual decision-makers to implement economically efficient, but distributionally unfair policies. Both committee members and individual decision-makers can be held responsible and punished by those who are affected by the policies. It is found that shared responsibility in fact breeds unfairness.