- 経済学史研究 (ISSN:18803164)
- vol.48, no.2, pp.51-66, 2006-12-20
Over the past decade, a number of economists at the Institute of Social and Economic Research, Osaka University, including myself, have been conducting experiments to test theories regarding the provision of public goods. One of our more interesting findings to date is evidence among Japanese of a trait that can be described as "spite" in the way it impacts the provision of public goods. This paper describes the purposes, method, and some results of those experiments. We have been forced to ponder economic methodology in every phase of this project. We considered the methods of neo-classical economists such as Walras and Pareto, for example, who tended primarily to analyze data without concern for the motives behind strategic choices, and we examined the approach of those experimentalists who put forth questions only after finishing their tests. To develop our own methodology, therefore, it seemed reasonable and legitimate to pose questions midway through our experiments in order to elicit the factors behind strategic choices. That reasoning led to questions concerning the validity of behavioral assumptions made by neo-classical economists, moving us well away from Milton Friedman, who pays little attention to whether those assumptions are valid or not. In this way, experimentalists in this area, including ourselves, have begun to study behavior in terms of whether it is altruistic, spiteful, or fair in the provision of public goods. In our experiments, we found that the first priority for several subjects was not the total payoff amount they could expect to receive but the ranking among them. Comparing American subjects with Japanese, we found that the American subjects tended to behave as game theory would predict, while some Japanese subjects adopted 'spiteful' strategies initially and demonstrated cooperative behavior later. Today, we believe that understanding human behavior is the central issue in social science. Adam Smith, David Hume, and other eighteenth-century thinkers were interested in the sentiment and emotion behind economic decisions, but for a long time neoclassical economists of the last century effectively avoided the factor of motivation behind human behavior. By describing the experimental method, I hope that this paper will help to open a new and challenging path to understand human economic behavior and may contribute to the development of a new economics for this century.