Playing with words: Do people exploit loaded language to affect others' decisions for their own benefit? Articles uri icon

publication date

  • January 2023

start page

  • 50

end page

  • 69


  • 1


  • 17

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1930-2975


  • We report on three pre-registered studies testing whether people in the position of describing a decision problem to decision-makers exploit this opportunity for their benefit, by choosing descriptions that may be potentially beneficial for themselves. In Study 1, recipients of an extreme dictator game (where dictators can either take the whole pie for themselves or give it entirely to the receiver) are asked to choose the instructions used to introduce the game to dictators, from six different instructions known from previous research to affect dictators’ decisions. The results demonstrate that some dictator game recipients tend to choose instructions that make them more likely to receive a higher payoff. Study 2 shows that people who choose descriptions that make them more likely to receive a higher payoff indeed believe that they will receive a higher payoff. Study 3 shows that receivers are more likely than dictators to choose these self-serving descriptions. In sum, our work suggests that some people choose descriptions that are beneficial to themselves; we also found some evidence that deliberative thinking and young age are associated with this tendency


  • Economics


  • choice of wording; dictator game; self-interest