Experimental dictator games have been used to explore unselfish behaviour. Evidence is presented here, however, that subjects’ generosity can be reversed by allowing them to take a partner’s money. Dictator game giving therefore does not reveal concern for consequences to others existing independently of the environment, as posited in rational choice theory. It may instead be an artefact of experimentation. Alternatively, evaluations of options depend on the composition of the choice set. Implications of these possibilities are explored for experimental methodology and charitable donations respectively. The data favour the artefact interpretation, suggesting that demand characteristics of experimental protocols merit investigation, and that economic analysis should not exclude context-specific social norms
To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.