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At the Mercy of the Prisoner Next Door. Using an Experimental Measure of Selfishness as a Criminological Tool

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Engel,  Christoph
Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods, Max Planck Society;

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Englerth,  Markus
Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Chmura, T., Engel, C., Englerth, M., & Pitz, T. (2010). At the Mercy of the Prisoner Next Door. Using an Experimental Measure of Selfishness as a Criminological Tool.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0028-6D0D-A
Abstract
Do criminals maximise money? Are criminals more or less selfish than the average subject? Can prisons apply measures that reduce the degree of selfishness of their inmates? Using a tried and tested tool from experimental economics, we cast new light on these old criminological questions. In a standard dictator game, prisoners give a substantial amount, which calls for more refined versions of utility in rational choice theories of crime. Prisoners do not give less than average subjects, not even than subjects from other closely knit communities. This speaks against the idea that people commit crimes because they are excessively selfish. Finally those who receive better marks at prison school give more, as do those who improve their marks over time. This suggests that this correctional intervention also reduces selfishness.