Understanding Moral Repugnance in Markets

Paper Session

Friday, Jan. 6, 2017 8:00 AM – 10:00 AM

Hyatt Regency Chicago, Grand Ballroom CD North
Hosted By: American Economic Association
  • Chair: Kimberly Krawiec, Duke University

The impact of pathogen-disgust sensitivity on vaccine and GM food risk perceptions: Some evidence for skepticism

Dan Kahan
,
Yale University

Abstract

Recently scholars and popular commentators have suggested that disgust plays an important role in generating conflict over the risks of both GM foods and universal-childhood vaccinations. This paper presents evidence that calls that conclusion into doubt. Results from a large, diverse sample of U.S. adults corroborate that that anxiety over GM foods and over vaccines correlates with the standard pathogen disgust scale (PDS). But so do a multitude of perceived risks that are not plausibly related to disgust—including fear of flying in commercial airliners, worry about elevator crashes in high-rise buildings, and distress over children drowning in swimming pools. Indeed, these correlations tend to be larger than the ones between PDS and vaccine-risk perceptions and at least as large as the ones between PDS and GM-food-risk perceptions. Because what PDS tells us about disgust-driven fears is confounded with the scale’s sensitivity to a generalized fear of all manner of risks, it is difficult to draw any confident inferences about what drives the modest correlations between PDS and GM-food and vaccine risk perceptions.
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Repugnance and Transactions in the Body

Kieran Healy
,
Duke University
Kimberly Krawiec
,
Duke University

Abstract

When we trade parts of ourselves, what are we doing - giving a gift, providing a service, selling a commodity, or something in between? Society at large - and the law - conceives of many seemingly similar transactions in the body in very different ways, relegating some to altruistic exchange in which profit-seeking is viewed as repugnant, while permitting market trading in others. At the same time, a close look at these transactions suggests that many defy such easy categorization. For example, egg "donation," although a robust and profitable industry, remains steeped in notions of altruism, selflessness, and gift, with corresponding legal consequences. And although the National Organ Transplant Act relegates kidney donation to what is typically considered gift exchange, severe shortages have prompted innovations in kidney exchange that blur the line between gift and market.

The Ethics of Incentivizing the Uninformed. A Vignette Study

Sandro Ambuehl
,
Stanford University

Abstract

In a recent working paper (Ambuehl and Ockenfels, 2017) we show that people with higher costs of information processing often respond more to a rise in the incentive for a complex transaction, and hence comprise a larger fraction of participants. These people decide to participate based on a worse understanding of the consequences of their choice. In this paper, respondents to a vignette study about incentivized human egg donation judge the resulting conflict with the principle of informed consent as ethically problematic. When upholding the principle requires restricting voluntary choice, they express support for paternalistic interventions, even though they believe that potential participants dislike them. They intuitively predict the behavioral effects of incentives on information processing and participant selection we document in our working paper.

Sacred versus Pseudo-Sacred Values

Philip E. Tetlock
,
University of Pennsylvania

Abstract

A sizable body of research—spanning social psychology, cultural anthropology and micro-economics—has explored “taboo trade-offs” and “sacred values” (values that communities treat, by formal law or informal norms, as non-monetizable and beyond trade-offs). Research reveals widespread deference to sacred values in low-stakes settings but, given that scarcity often thrusts trade-offs upon people and requires them to put shadow prices on sacred values, it is reasonable to question the depth of commitments to sacred values. Combining work on sacred values with work on social intelligence and Machiavellianism leads to the testable hypothesis that the long-term winners in symbolic political contests will tend to be those most skilled at making taboo trade-offs covertly and displaying fealty to sacred values overtly (the deftest practitioners of organized hypocrisy).
Discussant(s)
Brigitte Madrian
,
Harvard University
Luigi Zingales
,
University of Chicago
Deirdre McCloskey
,
University of Illinois-Chicago
Muriel Niederle
,
Stanford University
JEL Classifications
  • D4 - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design