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The Acceptability of Accountability

John Bone, Paolo Crosetto, John Hey and Carmen Pasca


This paper reports on an experimental test of the acceptability of the Principle of Accountability. This is a principle of social justice, and states, “individuals should be rewarded for factors under their control […], but not for factors outside their control” (Cappelen and Tungodden (2009). We specifically ask for acceptability of the principle underlying it, rather than for particular rewards in particular instances.  We carry out the test with both an Internal and an External Dictator. We find that there is broad, but not overwhelming support for the Principle. When the Principle is internally inconsistent no clear preference emerges, which is not surprising.

JEL classifications: D31, D63, C91
Keywords: chance, choice, compensation, luck, Liberal Egalitarianism, responsibility


The Paper

Paper (MS Word , 556kb)


Powerpoint Instructions

These was played on all subjects' screens before they started the experiment. There were separate presentations for both the internal and external dictator treatments.

Powerpoint Instructions 1 (MS PowerPoint , 398kb) for Internal Dictator treatment.

Powerpoint Instructions 2 (MS PowerPoint , 404kb) for External Dictator treatment.


Written Instructions

All subjects were given a printed copy of the PowerPoint Instructions above: separately for the both the internal and external dictator treatments.

written instructions 1 (PDF , 179kb)‌ for Internal Dictator treatment.

written instructions 2 (PDF , 189kb)‌ for External Dictator treatment.


Software for the experimental program

You can download the software in a zip file.

software (zip , 20kb)

Instructions for installing and running the software (MS Word , 13kb).


Tests of the Effect of the Default Rule

Default tests (PDF , 517kb)



Choice Data (MS Excel , 13kb)

Exploration Data (MS Excel , 2,164kb)

ReadMe ( 3kb download)