Journal Article

Caring Cooperators and Powerful Punishers: Differential Effects of Induced Care and Power Motivation on Different Types of Economic Decision Making


  • Gabriele Chierchia
  • Franca Parianen Lesemann
  • Dennis J. Snower
  • Mandy Vogel
  • Tania Singer
Publication Date

Standard economic theory postulates that decisions are driven by stable context-insensitive preferences, while motivation psychology suggests they are driven by distinct context-sensitive motives with distinct evolutionary goals and characteristic psycho-physiological and behavioral patterns. To link these fields and test how distinct motives could differentially predict different types of economic decisions, we experimentally induced participants with either a Care or a Power motive, before having them take part in a suite of classic game theoretical paradigms involving monetary exchange. We show that the Care induction alone raised scores on a latent factor of cooperation-related behaviors, relative to a control condition, while, relative to Care, Power raised scores on a punishment-related factor. These findings argue against context-insensitive stable preferences and theories of strong reciprocity and in favor of a motive-based approach to economic decision making: Care and Power motivation have a dissociable fingerprint in shaping either cooperative or punishment behaviors.

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