Why do internet business people exhibit more other regarding behavior than students? Common wisdom suggests that pro-social characteristics would be selected away from in the anonymous online world. However, it is precisely in semi-anonymous situations where trust is at a premium suggesting the opposite selection.
We find sparse evidence to support the Levitt and List (2007) selection hypothesis. While our priors were that internet business people would exhibit less pro-social behavior than students indeed we expected that the purely self-interest homo economicus models would oer excellent predictions we wanted to see the evidence for ourselves.
We were surprised by what we found. Across dimensions of trust, altruism, monitoring, and lying, internet business people were more pro-social than students. Moreover, the dierences were not small. Compared to students in the lab, internet business people were twice as likely to both be trustworthy and over 50% more likely to trust in a trust game. Internet business people contributed
over 250% more in dictator games. They lie one-third less often than students. The effects are more muted compared to students in the field, suggesting that field settings, in part, promote pro-sociality; however, even here, internet business people were, on the whole “nicer” than students.