Publications of Giardini, F
Facing expectations: Those that we prefer to fulfil and those that we disregard
We argue that people choosing prosocial distribution of goods (e.g., in dictator games) make this choice because they do not want to disappoint their partner rather than because of a direct preference for the chosen prosocial distribution. The chosen distribution is a means to fulfil one's partner's expectations. We review the economic experiments that corroborate this hypothesis and the experiments that deny that beliefs about others' expectations motivate prosocial choice. We then formulate hypotheses about what types of expectation motivate someone to do what is expected: these are justifiable hopeful expectations that are clearly about his own choices. We experimentally investigate how people modulate their prosociality when they face low or unreasonably high expectations. In a version of a dictator game, we provide dictators with the opportunity to modulate their transfer as a function of their partner's expectations. We observe that a significant portion of the population is willing to fulfil their partner's expectation provided that this expectation expresses a reasonable hope. We conclude that people are averse to disappointing and we discuss what models of social preferences can account for the role of expectations in determining prosocial choice, with a special attention to models of guilt aversion and social esteem.