A cornerstone of economic theory is that rational agents are self-interested, yet a decade of research in experimental economics has shown that economic decisions are frequently driven by concerns for fairness, equity, and reciprocity. One aspect of other-regarding behavior that has garnered attention is noblesse oblige, a social norm that obligates those of higher status to be generous in their dealings with those of lower status. The results of a cross-cultural study are reported in which marked noblesse oblige was observed on a reciprocal-contract decision-making task. Participants from seven countries that vary along hierarchical and individualist/collectivist social dimensions were more tolerant of non-reciprocation when they adopted a high-ranking perspective compared with a low-ranking perspective.
ASJC Scopus subject areas