Expectations play a crucial role in human interactions and they can be used as a guidance in decision-making. Although recent papers highlight the importance of expectations in decision-making, we still lack direct evidences of how expectations are integrated into an agent’s decision process. In this paper, we examine the role of expectations in altruistic choices in a Dictator Game in which Dictators have limited information about the receiver’s actual expectation. Our hypothesis is that the willingness to conform to others’ expectations can be one motive behind altruistic behaviour even in anonymous and non-repeated interactions. We compared two experimental conditions in order to test whether potential expectations could enter the decision-making process of dictators, and how these expectations affected their decisions. Our results show that the majority of dictators are sensitive to receivers’ expectations, even when these expectations are only potential. We also observe that this tendency to fulfil others’ expectations is connected to receivers’ expectations and not to any sensitivity to numbers. In addition, we find that the willingness to conform to others’ expectations is not blind but it depends on the expected amount. The implications of expectations for theories of social preferences are discussed.

JEL Classification: C91; D64; C70
Keywords: Dictator Game; Expectations; Decision-making; Altruism.

This seminar has been jointly organized by FEEM and IEFE, Bocconi University.