Extremists An Experimental Study Of How Social Interactions Change Preferences

Mar 2016 | 790

Authors: Ian Crawford, Donna Harris


We study the effects of social interactions on individuals’ other-regarding preferences. Using a modified dictator game and a structural choice-revealed preference approach, we compare five models of other regarding preferences and, using our preferred specification, we measure an individual’s preferences before and after subjects have interacted face-to-face in a small group. We then examine whether a change in preferences is observed. We find that these interactions do indeed change individuals’ other-regarding preferences and that these effects are highly heterogeneous. In most groups, preferences of individual group members become more homogenous as might be expected, but we also find that subjects’ preferences can converge towards those of a single key individual in the group whose preferences are both extreme and also unchanging. These key individuals often have strongly egoistic preferences and are also more likely to be male. These effects are more prevalent amongst younger subjects than older.

JEL Codes: C90, C92, D70

Keywords: Other-regarding preferences, social interactions, preference dynamics, preference heterogeneity, social conformity

View All Working Papers