Too smart to be selfish? Measures of cognitive ability, social preferences, and consistency

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Abstract

Although there is an increasing interest in examining the relationship between cognitive ability and economic behavior, less is known about the relationship between cognitive ability and social preferences. We investigate the relationship between consequential measures of cognitive ability and measures of social preferences. We have data on a series of small-stakes dictator-type decisions, known as Social Value Orientation (SVO), in addition to choices in a larger-stakes dictator game. We also have access to the grade point averages (GPA) and SAT (formerly referred to as the Scholastic Aptitude Test) outcomes of our subjects. We find that subjects who perform better on the Math portion of the SAT are more generous in both the dictator game and the SVO measure. By contrast we find that subjects with a higher GPA are more selfish in the dictator game and more generous according to the SVO. We also find some evidence that the subjects with higher GPA and higher SAT outcomes offer more consistent responses. Our results involving GPA and social preferences complement previous work which employ measures of cognitive ability which are sensitive to the intrinsic motivation of the subject. Our results involving SAT scores are without precedent in the literature and suggest that measures of cognitive ability, which are less sensitive to the intrinsic motivation of the subject, are positively related to generosity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)112-122
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Economic Behavior and Organization
Volume90
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management

Keywords

  • Altruism
  • Dictator game
  • Intelligence
  • Social Value Orientation

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