Author's School

Graduate School of Arts & Sciences

Author's Department/Program



English (en)

Date of Award

Winter 12-1-2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Chair and Committee

Pascal Boyer


People’s implicit assumptions about ownership might influence their decisions in Dictator Games: DG), leading to generosity. Two studies tested subjects’ intuitions concerning ownership in fictional situations structurally analogous to the DG. Subjects read a story about a ritual in which an old man: experimenter in DG) provided an endowment that Person 1: dictator in DG) had to allocate between self and Person 2: receiver in DG). Subjects were told that in some instances the ritual was interrupted before completion. As an assay of their intuitions regarding ownership, subjects were asked who owned the endowment and how it should be allocated after such interruptions. Results suggest that subjects assume the endowment primarily belonged to the experimenter throughout the DG, except when the dictator worked for it. These property right intuitions might account for allocation decisions in actual DGs.


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