Temptation and prosociality: What can self-control tell us about our moral nature?
SeriesResearch Master Defense
LocationTinbergen Institute Amsterdam, room 1.02 or online
Date and time
August 29, 2022
11:00 - 12:00
Whether altruism is connatural to human beings or a thin veneer imposed by society remains unknown and has led to many empirical and theoretical controversies since it was first questioned centuries ago. Here, we study this question experimentally through the lense of temptation and self-control. If prosociality/selfishness is natural, individuals should require no self-control to exert it, if it is not, they should. Our experimental design follows Toussaert (2018), and allows us to identify a taxonomy of types, including self-control types as per the self-control model of Gul and Pesendorfer (2001). We propose a novel design to manipulate temptation: a button which upon pressing can generate a prosocial or a selfish action. The thesis reports the results of a pilot experiment, designed to evaluate whether it is plausible to suspect that prosocial temptations exist and whether the buttons can manipulate it. Our current, relatively small, sample shows weak evidence in support of the first and positive yet no statistically significant evidence regarding the latter. The current Pilot results serve as input for the Main experiment, which will shed light on whether we are more likely to be good people who sometimes do bad or bad people who sometimes manage to do good.