A Cross-Cultural Study of Noblesse Oblige in Economic Decision-Making

Laurence Fiddick, Denise Dellarosa Cummins, Maria Janicki, Sean Lee, Nicole Erlich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


A cornerstone of economic theory is that rational agents are self-interested, yet a decade of research in experimental economics has shown that economic decisions are frequently driven by concerns for fairness, equity, and reciprocity. One aspect of other-regarding behavior that has garnered attention is noblesse oblige, a social norm that obligates those of higher status to be generous in their dealings with those of lower status. The results of a cross-cultural study are reported in which marked noblesse oblige was observed on a reciprocal-contract decision-making task. Participants from seven countries that vary along hierarchical and individualist/collectivist social dimensions were more tolerant of non-reciprocation when they adopted a high-ranking perspective compared with a low-ranking perspective.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)318-335
Number of pages18
JournalHuman Nature
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2013 Sept
Externally publishedYes


  • Collectivism
  • Cross-cultural analysis
  • Economic decision-making
  • Individualism
  • Noblesse oblige
  • Power distance
  • Reciprocity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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