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  Benefitting and punishing others: The dissociable impact of induced “care” and “power” motivation on economic interactions

Chierchia, G., Parianen Lesemann, F. H., Snower, D. J., & Singer, T. (2016). Benefitting and punishing others: The dissociable impact of induced “care” and “power” motivation on economic interactions. Poster presented at Society for Neuroeconomics Annual Meeting, Berlin, Germany.

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Chierchia, Gabriele1, Author           
Parianen Lesemann, Franca H.1, Author           
Snower, D. J., Author
Singer, Tania1, Author           
1Department Social Neuroscience, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society, ou_634552              


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 Abstract: Objective In economic interactions, humans are known to frequently incur costs to benefit others (i.e., donating) and to “punish” those who do not (i.e., negative reciprocity). These two types of behaviors have often been interpreted as stemming from one type of stable “prosocial preference”, though recent studies have cast doubts on this assumption. One proposal is that economic punishments may be linked to the establishment of status and power. Here, we show that helping and punishing behaviors can indeed be manipulated separately, by inducing a “care motive” and a “power motive” respectively. Method 198 participants (mean age=27, sd=4.7, 96 males) took part in one of three activities: in a “care induction” participants anticipated taking care of a group of puppies in the context of a therapy-dog training program. In a “power induction” participants were selected as “leaders” of an upcoming group project. In a “control induction” participants were to read a passage of text. We assessed self-reported feelings along a number of candidate motives before and after participants were told about these activities. Thereafter, while participants waited for the activities to take place, they took part in an allegedly “separate” study on economic decision-making, which involved a series of classic games (see below). We then ran a principal component analysis (“PCA”) on the resulting behavioral indexes. Results The inductions successfully raised self-reported feelings of care and power in the corresponding conditions, albeit with noticeable gender differences. The first 2 principle components of the PCA separated between games involving benefits to others (charitable donations, 1st and 2nd movers in the trust game, and others), and games involving potential harm to others (2nd movers in the ultimatum game, 2nd/3rd party punishment games, and others). More importantly, participants in the care induction scored significantly higher on the first “benefitting component” than participants in the power condition or controls. On the other hand, in the power induction, males scored higher on the “harm component” than participants in the care condition and controls. Conclusions These results strengthen recent proposals that benefitting and punishing others are actually orthogonal dimensions of economic behavior and that they could be linked to a “care” and “power’ motive, respectively. Our results also suggest that economic behaviors are driven by different motives that can be elicited as a function of different contexts and are thus not only the result of stable, context-independent preferences.


 Dates: 2016-08
 Publication Status: Not specified
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Title: Society for Neuroeconomics Annual Meeting
Place of Event: Berlin, Germany
Start-/End Date: 2016-08-28 - 2016-08-30

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