Elective courses

Social or other-regarding preferences refer to preferences of economic agents regarding other people’s outcomes. These preferences can be both benevolent and malevolent, but crucially they differ from selfish preferences without any regard for others. The course provides an introduction to key evidence about the relevance of social preferences in economic interaction as well as the most important theoretical approaches that aim at explaining these results.

Most of the discussed evidence will be from controlled laboratory experiments. Critique regarding the relevance of (laboratory) experiments on social preferences will be discussed as well.  Apart from methodological critique, experimental studies that critically reflect on prominent papers and research agendas will be presented in order to highlight the relevance of apparent subtleties in experimental design. 

Specific requirements:
Some knowledge of game theory is helpful, but fairly basic experience is mostly sufficient. Knowledge of statistical analysis will make it easier to follow the data analysis in the experimental papers and thus enable a more critical view, but is not strictly necessary.

Part of the seminar is an ungraded presentation.

The course literature consists of a list of journal articles. Some key articles are below, further literature will be announced during the course 

Andreoni, James (1995). Cooperation in Public Goods Experiments: Kindness or Confusion? American Economic Review 85(4), 891-904.

Andreoni,  James and John H. Miller (2002). Giving According to GARP: An Experimental Test of the Consistency of Preferences for Altruism.  Econometrica 70(2), 737-753.

Bénabou, Roland and Jean Tirole (2006). Incentives and prosocial behavior. American Economic Review 96(5). 1652-1678.

Blanco, Mariana, Dirk Engelmann, and Hans-Theo Normann (2011). A Within-Subject Analysis of Other-Regarding Preferences. Games and Economic Behavior 72(2), 321-338.

Bolton, Gary E. and Axel Ockenfels (2000). ERC: A Theory of Equity, Reciprocity and Competition. American Economic Review 90(1), 166-193.

Dufwenberg, Martin, Paul Heidhues, Georg Kirchsteiger, Frank Riedel, and Joel Sobel (2011). Other-Regarding Preferences in General Equilibrium. Review of Economic Studies 78(2), 613-639.

Engelmann, Dirk and Martin Strobel (2004). Inequality Aversion, Effciency, and Maximin Preferences in Simple Distribution Experiments. American Economic Review 94(4), 857-869.

Fehr, Ernst and Simon Gächter (2000). Cooperation and Punishment in Public Goods Experiments. American Economic Review 90(4), 980-994.

Fehr, Ernst and Klaus M. Schmidt (1999). A Theory of Fairness, Competition and Cooperation. Quarterly Journal of Economics 114(3), 817-868.

Levitt, Steven D. and List, John A. (2007). What Do Laboratory Experiments Measuring Social Preferences Reveal About the Real World?  Journal of Economic Perspectives 21(2), 153-174.

Nikiforakis, Nikos, 2008. Punishment and Counter-punishment in Public Good Games: Can we Really Govern Ourselves? Journal of Public Economics 92(1-2), 91-112.

Early relevant surveys are provided in:

  • Camerer, Colin F. (2003). Behavioral Game Theory, Princeton University Press. Chapter 2

  • Ledyard, John (1995): Public Goods: A Survey of Experiment Research. In: John H. Kagel and Alvin E. Roth, Handbook of Experimental Economics, Princeton University Press.

Time & venue:
Tuesdays, 10:00-14:00; HU Berlin, Spandauer Str. 1, room 23

Term paper

More information can be found on Moodle.

Guest Lecturer(s)

Müge Süer