Faculty of Economics and Business Administration Publications Database

Sharing Guilt: How Better Access to Information May Backfire

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Authors:
Ockenfels, Peter
Khalmetski, Kiryl
Source:
Pages: 1 - 15
ISSN-Print: 0025-1909
Link External Source: Online Version
Year: 2019
Keywords: shared guilt; trust; guilt aversion; responsibility diffusion; advice
Abstract:

We study strategic communication between a customer and an advisor who is privately informed about the most suitable choice for the customer but whose preferences are misaligned with the customer’s preferences. The advisor sends a message to the customer who, in turn, can secure herself from bad advice by acquiring costly information on her own. In our experiments, we find that making the customer’s information acquisition less costly leads to less prosocial behavior of the advisor. This can be explained by a model of shared guilt, which predicts a shift in causal attribution of guilt from the advisor to the customer if the latter could have avoided her ex post disappointment. We conclude that providing better access to information through, for example, consumer protection regulation or digital information aggregation and dissemination, may have unintended negative consequences on peoples’ willingness to take responsibility for each other.

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