Spite

This is from Eliana Zeballos, who is on the job market this year from UC Davis and appears to be a very interesting candidate.  Here is part of the abstract of her job market paper (pdf):

The experimental games were conducted in Bolivia among285 dairy farmers. Results show that when participants were presented with their ranking and the earnings of others in their group, those below the group mean increased their effort whereas those above the group mean decreased their effort. When destructive actions were allowed, 55 percent of the participants were willing to forego own-consumption in order to burn others’ output; 58 percent were victims of destructive actions and lost, on average, a third of their earnings. There is an asymmetry in the direction of destruction: almost all of the highest earners suffered some destruction while only a quarter of the lowest earners were victims of destructive actions. Finally, the threat of destructive actions reduced the highest earning participants’ effort by 5.8 percent.

bolivia

For the pointer I thank Ben Southwood.

Comments

That is higher negativity than I expected. Institutions matter?

(Also, while I approve of your photos experiment, I personally do not require them.)

'Also, while I approve of your photos experiment'

The odd thing being that just a day before, Prof. Cowen was writing about how not having photos would help improve his personal web browsing experience in relation to media consumption.

That post itself had the first photo. I expect that the photos, picked up by Facebook and Twitter, will get clicks.

Prof. Cowen may be smart enough to realise what applies to him, does not apply generally.

The social (and economic) theory of relativity. Increased segregation by class has made those at the top less sympathetic for those at the bottom, while making those at the bottom less envious for those at the top. What's a social gadfly to do, organize the like-minded to march on Walmart to protest the narrow aisles and rusty shopping carts. What's a well-meaning social do-gooder to do, organize the like-minded to help eradicate some rare tropical disease in remote South America or Africa. And as this study confirms, increased segregation by class acts as a moderating influence for those within the class. It reminds me of Lake Wobegon, where everyone is above average. I suppose it's not a terrible thing that people conform to the expectations of their peers since it promotes social harmony, even if it also discourages social mobility. Remember that ridiculous (and popular) book from the early 1970s, Jonathan Livingston Seagull. And the song from the 1970s by Fleetwood Mac, Go Your Own Way. Today's Facebook culture (a/k/a Lake Wobegon) is having none of that.

1) I wonder how well these sorts of experiments represent what people would do in real life.

2) Perhaps people derive great benefits from approximate equality. If so, it's not spite, it's a crude attempt to increase utility, especially given the constraints of an artificial game.

3) In real life, people could set up political systems that include systems to distribute income or wealth. This would provide the benefits of more equality will minimizing the destruction seen in the experiment.

In the real world we recognize risks and create institutions to manage our baser instincts. Or we try. When an auto dealer subverts the city council to penalize competition, we may not notice.

Institutions matter, but below that, the human concept of fairness matters.

This is kind of a litmus test. Who here cheers on the auto dealer (and competition), and who here cheers the city council?

I think you misread that. They collude. In cases I know about they set traffic flow to benefit incumbent auto dealers, and refuse traffic redesign for new ones. I've even heard of a city making a loan to their favorite son auto-dealer.

You are correct, I did misread. Somehow I read "When an auto dealer subverts the city council attempts* to penalize competition"

"1) I wonder how well these sorts of experiments represent what people would do in real life."

I do as well -- for all experiments of this kind. Many people I know are cheerfully ruthless and merrily spiteful when playing games, but they do not and would not ever behave that way in real life.

I tend to think that's true. However, I think it would be interesting to see these experiemnt conducted across different socieites and compare results. I think that would offer some general insights about various institutional settings. Of course that would requre the assumption that the players all diverge from real behavior at about the same level.

One manifestation is when the smart kids get harassed or beat up in schools, or someone is accused of 'acting white'. From what I understand that is quite common.

Didn't Obama exhort to vote for revenge, then won by a large margin?

Never base your politics on 70's television drama.

I've never heard Obama being called a 70’s television drama, but yeah, might fit.

As do I. In the context of a game, it is mostly about competition, but in real life much of this would be counterproductive even if you were seeking more equality as these would only represent a small fraction of society and there are probably better alternatives while at the same time fewer negative alternatives in real life. Once you exit game mode and supplant it with achievement, knowledge, empathy, charity, hope, and love, different endpoints become available.

This seems to provide lots of confirmation for things people already believe. Competition makes those who are losing try harder. In a zero sum game hurting your opponent = helping yourself, and you're more likely to hurt the successful than the unsuccessful. The possibility of not getting to profit from your own efforts (let's say destruction = taxes) will cause high producers to work less hard.

Not sure I'm following your view that hurting the successful somehow is more helpful than hurther a poorer competitor unless the objet to maximize is not really market results per se. It does remind me of a commnet the late Jim Buchannan made once about some experimental results along these lines -- relative performance/outcomes matter not merely aboslute one. That seems like it should be an "obvious" economic view given the whole relative prices thing.

Also wondering if these results can related to any of the theory on preditory pricing as a startegic market behavior. The PP seems more about punishing the weak rather than really going to war with a strong competitor. Then again (and not up on any of the literature) I thought the general view was that PP doesn't really work well and isn't often attempted (even though popular economic/media commentartor will find plenty of cases).

Spite, evolutionary psychology based egalitarianism - strange how easily one can shift the narrative.

Spite or called jealousy in some African parts. Some successful subsistence farmers sleep in their fields to protect their crop from neighbours that can push in cattle to destroy the field. This also creates a disincentive to planting which results in less ploughed acreage and so food insecurity. It is really triggered by a breakdown in rural law. Such conduct used to attract a fine of beasts up to the value of the crop lost. But these laws have faded away.

Too bad we can't outlaw spite. We used to through social norms, but no more. Spite and jealousy are behind many of our 'social' movements now.

What exactly is novel about this? Seems like a retread of Solnick & Hemenway (1998) or Oswald & Zizzo (2001)...

Peter Thiel talks about this phenomenon in Zero to One on his chapter regarding how competition is bad. Instead of working for the greater good, we are envious of others for what they have which in turn creates conflict. Its mimetic desire as laid out by Rene Girard. This type of result shouldn't surprise anyone.

It's how you handle the conflict that is important. Do I try to sabotage my neighbor, or does this make me strive to do better?

There were two effects, the over average producer held back some too. This is also not good for society.

For sure, anything that causes you to strive better is good, its when you're more concerned about bringing down your competition (or your neighbors) than in improving your product, or yourself, when things go bad.

Severe mood affiliation with Prof Cowen and his choice of JMC's. Either they are cultural norms explorations or something something inequality.

Maybe this is just spite talking?

Seems to be a study generally along the same line of questioning: https://www.sciencenews.org/article/culture-shapes-sense-fairness?mode=topic&context=49

Blogger, heed thyself!

Just yesterday, Tyler lamented the decline in quality of some websites and stated, "Banning photos would solve twenty percent of this problem."

And then, today, he tarts up two of his posts with lame stock photos that add absolutely nothing.

Jerry: "Excuse me I'd like to return this jacket."

Teller: "Certainly. May I ask why?"

Jerry: "........For spite..."

Teller: "Spite?"

Jerry: "That's right. I don't care for the salesman that sold it to me."

Teller: "I don't think you can return an item for spite."

Jerry: "What do you mean?"

Teller: "Well if there was some problem with the garment. If it were unsatisfactory in some way,then we could do it for you, but I'm afraid spite doesn't fit into any of our conditions for a refund"

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