In a previous post, I questioned the relevance of a popular game theory experiment, the Prisoner’s Dilemma. Now, I want to explore the implication of another economic theory game: the dictator game.
The dictator game is another game that asks participants to make ethical decisions that necessarily affect another person. In this game, one individual is The Dictator. He/she is given a certain sum of discretionary money and told that he/she can keep all the money, or give a portion to another person, known as The Responder.
What would you do?
Over and over again, studies have shown that most people choose to give away at least some part of their cash pool. Researchers have used this information to posit that the game indicates individuals generally care about the welfare of others.
As Zachary Sniderman details in a recent Mashable post, Web entrepreneur John Bushell has reimagined this classic exercise for a new, web-savvy generation with his new site, Moral Experiment. Launched in the UK, the site charges users a £1 subscription rate per month, which then provides the user to his/her unique referral code. Users can then disperse this referral code, through their Facebook for example, encouraging other people to sign up for the site. The catch? When a subscriber uses your referral code, you get their subscription fee via your PayPal account.
The site explicitly gives you the choice to keep the money, or donate it to a charity…hence the name, Moral Experiment. They also promise complete anonymity of the users, so if I accept your referral code and sign up for the site, I have no way of knowing whether you donated the cash, or pocketed it.
So…what would you do? Help someone, or take the money and run?