A study of moral motivation in paternalistic behavior : a study of how two variations of information asymmetry affect the willingness to make paternalistic decisions
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- Master Thesis 
The purpose of this thesis is to study moral motivation in hard paternalistic interferences, and further contribute to the understanding of the nature behind paternalistic behavior. Based on the evidence that people are morally motivated, and that people value both autonomy and others wellbeing, we investigate which preferences are dominant when faced with a trade-off between these moral values. By doing this, we combine research from different fields, namely literature on paternalism and literature on moral motivation and preferences. This study aims to contribute to the research in the intersection of these fields. We approach this by conducting an incentivized economic experiment in which spectators are asked to decide whether to allow a stakeholder to make a choice that only affects the stakeholder’s own pay-off. To create a situation where the moral trade-off is present, the spectators are exposed to one of four treatments that will differ in information asymmetry in favor of the spectator, and information asymmetry in favor of the stakeholder. This allows us to examine how information asymmetry casually affects the willingness to act paternalistically. Using statistical analysis, our findings indicate that the willingness to act paternalistically, increases when the spectator has an informational advantage, and therefore can increase the wellbeing of the stakeholder by restricting his autonomy. This indicates that people are morally motivated by other people’s wellbeing when faced with this trade-off. However, we also find that across all treatments, a majority of the spectators chooses not to act paternalistically. This reveals a strong aversion against interfering with the autonomy of peers, implying that people put a high value on other’s autonomy. Further on, we find no significant effect on the spectator’s willingness to act paternalistically when the stakeholder has more information. This indicates that people disregard the stakeholder’s risk preferences when making paternalistic decisions. In addition to the main findings, we find several significant differences in the willingness to act paternalistically across subgroups. Our results indicate that gender, age, education and political orientation all have statistically significant effects on the willingness to act paternalistically.