Is fairness intuitive? An experiment accounting for the role of subjective utility differences under time pressure

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  • University of Heidelberg


Evidence from response time studies and time pressure experiments has
led several authors to conclude that "fairness is intuitive". In light of conflicting
findings we provide theoretical arguments showing under which conditions
an increase in "fairness" due to time pressure indeed provides unambiguous
evidence in favor of the "fairness is intuitive" hypothesis. Drawing
on recent applications of the Drift Diffusion Model (Krajbich et al., 2015a),
we demonstrate how the subjective difficulty of making a choice affects decisions under time pressure and time delay, thereby making an unambiguous
interpretation of time pressure effects contingent on the choice situation. To
explore our theoretical considerations and to retest the "fairness is intuitive"
hypothesis, we analyze choices in two-person binary dictator and prisoner’s
dilemma games under time pressure or time delay. In addition, we manipulate
the subjective difficulty of choosing the fair relative to the selfish option.
Our main finding is that time pressure does not consistently promote fairness
in situations where this would be predicted after accounting for choice
difficulty. Hence, our results cast doubt on the hypothesis that "fairness is


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-27
Number of pages27
JournalExperimental Economics
Early online date22 Mar 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 22 Mar 2018