Social preferences in the lab: A comparison of students and a representative population

By: Erik Sørensen, Cappelen, Alexander W., Knut Nygård and Bertil Tungodden

Forthcoming in:

Scandinavian Journal of Economics


We report from a lab experiment conducted with a sample of participants that is nationally representative for the adult population in Norway and two student samples (economics students and non-economics students). The participants make choices both in a dictator game (a non-strategic environment) and in a generalized trust game (a strategic environment). We find that the representative sample differs fundamentally from the students both in the relative importance assigned to different moral motives (efficiency, equity, and reciprocity) and in the level of selfish behavior. It is also interesting to note that the gender effects observed in the student samples do not correspond to the gender effects observed in representative sample. Finally, when comparing the lab behavior of the two student samples, we find that non-economics students are less selfish than economics students but similar in the relative importance assigned to different moral motives.

Online version of the article

Published July 4, 2014 1:22 PM - Last modified Aug. 23, 2016 1:28 PM