Paternalistic versus non-paternalistic altruism – experimental test

Last registered on August 23, 2021


Trial Information

General Information

Paternalistic versus non-paternalistic altruism – experimental test
Initial registration date
August 19, 2021

Initial registration date is when the trial was registered.

It corresponds to when the registration was submitted to the Registry to be reviewed for publication.

First published
August 23, 2021, 9:20 AM EDT

First published corresponds to when the trial was first made public on the Registry after being reviewed.



Primary Investigator


Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
FAME | GRAPE, University of Warsaw
PI Affiliation
University of Wisconsin-Madison
PI Affiliation
Wesleyan University

Additional Trial Information

On going
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial does not extend or rely on any prior RCTs.
Is the altruistic behavior context-dependent or is it purely driven by care of self and others well-being?
In this study, we experimentally test whether decision on whether to share different types of goods, activities, or emotions, and if so – how to share them, follow similar patterns or whether they are dependent on what is shared?

Theoretical background provides us with two possible mechanisms explaining altruistic behavior (Vasquez & Weretka, 2020). One theory describes so-called paternalistic altruism that is driven by care of others consumption. The other, based on empathetic preferences, highlight the role of utility of the other person. If the first one is correct, then context and what is exactly should strongly affect the decision. If only utility (or happiness) matters than there should be a recognizable pattern of altruistic behavior related to emotional contagion. What is shared should not matter in this case.

In this study, we use hypothetical choice questions (but with the promise that one of the question will not be only hypothetical - additional incentive) to ask participants how would they share several types of goods, emotions, feelings with either stranger or a known person. We use construction of dictatorship game, so our participants are informed that they can share things, but there are no consequences if they decide not to. We ask the question in several contexts: such as risk, pain, disgust, waiting time, possibility to share bad and good news, money, sweets, cinema tickets, washing dishes, making work decisions, and solving math tasks. All contexts are described in a way to provide as many details as possible to make situations realistic for subjects.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Narhetali, Erita et al. 2021. "Paternalistic versus non-paternalistic altruism – experimental test." AEA RCT Registry. August 23.
Experimental Details


Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
The primary outcome is the measure of altruism towards stranger and known person in different context (choice of how many of the items/ things/activities will be transfer to the other person).
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
Experiment will be provided as a hypothetical choice question survey using dictatorship game method. Subjects will have to decide whether and how much to share with a stranger (a person who take part in this study as well, but you don't know her), and someone that is known ("Think about someone you know..."). Subjects will have to make the decision in twelve contexts. Subjects will be additionally incentivized by the fact that the experimenter will realize one of their choices. They will be informed that one of the questions will be (not randomly) after the experiment will be completed, and the additional prize (eg. additional money, chocolates, lottery ticket) will be transferred to subjects. The subjects will be unaware of the contexts before they will read the questions.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization: There are two treatment conditions: whether the subject share with a stranger or with a known person. Treatment condition will be assign within subject - for half of the questions subject will share with a stranger and for the other half with a known person. Situations will be randomly combined with a treatment condition, but each subject will make only one decision in each context (either for stranger, or for the known person). We will be able to observe general subject treatment effect, but no situation level subject treatment effect - these will be observed only on a between subject level.
Randomization Method
Randomization will be provided by the online survey tool used to conduct the experiment.
Randomization Unit
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
No clusters are planned
Sample size: planned number of observations
200 subjects
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
200 subjects with 12 answers per person will result with 2400 observed choices
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
GRAPE Ethics Comittee
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Decision #3/2021


Post Trial Information

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Is the intervention completed?
Data Collection Complete
Data Publication

Data Publication

Is public data available?

Program Files

Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials

Relevant Paper(s)

Reports & Other Materials