Social Preferences as an Individual Difference in Offender Decision-making

Chae M. Jaynes, Thomas A. Loughran

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Objectives: We examined the relationship between social preference game behavior and offender status and tested whether this relationship was attributed to genuine prosocial preferences or confounded by individual differences in future orientation, sensation seeking, and risk-taking. Methods: Offender and nonoffender samples played the dictator and ultimatum games. Ordered and generalized ordered logistic regression models were used to test the hypothesis that when compared to nonoffenders, offenders would demonstrate increased self-interest, while also considering competing theoretical mechanisms. Results: Offenders appeared to be more self-interested as indicated by smaller offers in the dictator game. This relationship, however, was attributed to differences in future orientation between the two groups rather than differences in social preferences. Net of demographic controls and competing theoretical mechanisms, however, offenders made smaller offers in the ultimatum game. We argue this finding revealed differences in strategic decision-making between the two groups. Conclusions: Results suggested that offenders were not distinguishable from nonoffenders by individual differences in social preferences. While nonoffenders made larger offers in both games, this finding was attributed to differences in temporal orientation and risk-taking rather than differences in prosocial preferences. This supported the rational choice assumption of self-interest and highlighted differences in strategic decision-making between offenders and nonoffenders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)129-169
Number of pages41
JournalJournal of Research in Crime and Delinquency
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology


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