The Bologna Insitute for Policy Research | Seminar Series Event | Christoph-Engel-Helping-When-Need-Cannot-Be-Proven
February 26, 2018 - 18:30 Penthouse - International Development Economics Series

Helping When Need Cannot Be Proven
Christoph Engel, Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods, Germany

hosted by Professor Stefano Zamagni

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Against all odds society can rely on the deeds of good Samaritans. But in the biblical scenario there is no doubt the robbers' victim is in need of help. This dramatically limits the pool of potential helpers to passers-by. In a series of experiments, we try to understand to what degree, and in which ways, generosity is affected by uncertainty of the need for help.

In a first experiment, we manipulate the degree and type of uncertainty about the relative wealth of an anonymous recipient. Surprisingly, experimental dictators give more. We find that helpers are chiefly concerned about the risk of recipients being completely left without support.

In a second experiment, we find that potential donors are willing to spend extra money on making sure that their donation is not subverted (ie, goes into the hands of local warlords).

In a third experiment, we find that potential donors are more likely to make a donation if this risk is perfectly contained (in legal terms: if the contract grants specific performance), rather than merely monetary compensation.

Christoph Engel is the Executive Director of the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods in Bonn and full professor of law at the Universities of Bonn and Rotterdam.

Engel is Dr.jur and Dr.h.c. phil (Hebrew University Jerusalem). His main area of research is behavioural law and economics. Most of his papers are experimental. He presents two important research questions: in which ways does a behavioural perspective qualify the definition of the policy problems law is meant to address, and how can legal intervention solve or at least mitigate these problems by impacting the behaviour of its addressees? His papers have been published in peer reviewed legal journals, such as the Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, the Journal of Legal Studies and the Journal of Law and Economics; in economics journals, such as Experimental Economics or Economics Letters; and in psychology journals, such as Perspectives on Psychological Science and the Journal of Behavioral Decision Making.


American Foreign Policy
Conflict Management
Energy, Resources and Environment
European and Eurasian Studies
International Relations
Latin American Studies
Middle East Studies
Marco Albertini
Dana H. Allin
Marco  Alverà
Matteo Alvisi
Edmund Amann
Arthur Appleton
Emanuele Bajo
Marco Boggero
William A. Booth
Benedetta Calandra
Paolo Calzini
Emanuela Carbonara
Gabriel Cardona-Fox
Anna Ottani Cavina
David Cheong
Umberto Cherubini
David Corrales Morales
Raffaella A. Del Sarto
Vincent Della Sala
Marco Dell'Aquila
Giulio Ecchia
David W. Ellwood
Justin Frosini
Johannes Gabriel
Nina Gardner
Marco Gestri
Giampiero Giacomello
Christopher L. Gilbert
Mark Gilbert
Manfred Hafner
Nina Hall
John L. Harper
Matthew  Harries
Masha Hedberg
Christopher Hill
Herman Hoen
William Hynes
Fabrizio Jacobellis
Søren Jessen-Petersen
Erik Jones
Thomas Keaney
Kenneth H. Keller
Winrich Kühne
Michael Leigh
Mladen Lisanin
Alessandra Luati
Barbara Luppi
Adrian Lyttelton
Susanna Mancini
Massimiliano Marzo
Hanns Maull
Hartmut Mayer
Jacqueline Mazza
Erika Meucci
Marko Milenkovic
Gunnar Mokosch
Francesco N. Moro
Alireza Naghavi
Dorina Maria Ofrim
Gianfranco Pasquino
Sara Pennicino
Michael G. Plummer
Richard Pomfret
Federico Rossi
Thomas Row
Lester Salamon
Paolo Scaroni
Gary Sick
Patricia Sourdin
Filippo Taddei
Simone Tagliapietra
Geoffrey Underhill
David C. Unger
Sanam Vakil
Bob van der Zwaan
Francesc Vendrell
Stefano Zamagni
Vera Negri Zamagni



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