Deconstructing bias in social preferences reveals groupy and not-groupy behavior.
Group divisions are a continual feature of human history, with biases toward people's own groups shown in both experimental and natural settings. Using a within-subject design, this paper deconstructs group biases to find significant and robust individual differences; some individuals consistently respond to group divisions, while others do not. We examined individual behavior in two treatments in which subjects make pairwise decisions that determine own and others' incomes. In a political treatment, which divided subjects into groups based on their political leanings, political party members showed more in-group bias than Independents who professed the same political opinions. However, this greater bias was also present in a minimal group treatment, showing that stronger group identification was not the driver of higher favoritism in the political setting. Analyzing individual choices across the experiment, we categorize participants as "groupy" or "not groupy," such that groupy participants have social preferences that change for in-group and out-group recipients, while not-groupy participants' preferences do not change across group context. Demonstrating further that the group identity of the recipient mattered less to their choices, strongly not-groupy subjects made allocation decisions faster. We conclude that observed in-group biases build on a foundation of heterogeneity in individual groupiness.
Kranton, R; Pease, M; Sanders, S; Huettel, S
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