Dictator game variants with probabilistic (and cost-saving) payoffs: A systematic test
Driven by methodological concerns, theoretical considerations, and previous evidence, I sys-tematically test the validity of common dictator game variants with probabilistic payoffs. Using a unified experimental framework, I include four approaches and compare them to a standard dictator game: involving fewer receivers than dictators, paying only some players, paying only some decisions, and role uncertainty. I also relate transfers in the dictator game variants to established complementary individual difference measures of prosociality: social value orienta-tion, personal values, a donation to charity, and the Big Five personality factor agreeableness. My data shows that the standard dictator game presents the expected correlations with the com-plementary measures of prosociality. Involving fewer receivers yields comparably valid results. By contrast, when only some players or decisions are paid or, particularly, when subjects face role uncertainty, the expected associations with complementary prosociality measures are distorted. Under role uncertainty, generosity is also significantly biased upward. I conclude that the validity of dictator game outcomes is highly sensitive to the applied methods. Not all dictator game variants can be recommended for the valid measurement of social preferences.