Ulric B. and Evelyn L. Bray Social Sciences Seminar
Abstract: I model decision-making constrained by morality, rationality, or other virtues. In addition to a primary preference over outcomes, the decision maker (DM) is characterized by a set of preferences that he considers justifiable. In each choice setting, he maximizes his primary preference over the subset of alternatives that maximize at least one of the justifiable preferences. The justification model unites a broad class of empirical work on distributional preferences, charitable donations, prejudice/discrimination, and corruption/bribery. I provide full behavioral characterizations of several variants of the justification model as well as practical tools for identifying primary preferences and justifications from choice behavior. I show that identification is partial in general, but full identification can be achieved by including lotteries in the domain and allowing for heterogeneity in both primary preferences and justifications. Since the heterogeneous model uses between-subject data, it is robust to consistency motives that may arise in within-subject experiments. I extend the heterogeneous model to information choice and show that it accounts for observed patterns of information demand and avoidance on ethical domains.