Apparently judges' decisions are not motivated by maximizing their own profit. The literature uses two strategies to explain this observation: judges care about the long‐term monetary consequences for themselves, or individuals who are more strongly motivated by the common good self‐select into the profession. We suggest that there is an additional explanation, the "office motive". In a lab experiment, we rule out both traditional explanations by design. Nonetheless authorities do a reliable job at overcoming a social dilemma. Calling the authorities "public official" or "judge" increases their sensitivity towards the degree by which individuals are selfish, and it reduces the effect of their social value orientation (making them more neutral). This suggests that the socially desirable effect is not driven by anger or sympathy with the victims, but follows from the desire to fulfill the expectations that come with the assigned task. We test three extensions: When given an opportunity to announce an explicit policy, judges become less sensitive to the objective degree of reproach, and more sensitive to their social value orientation. If judges are elected or experienced, they react more intensely to norm violations. Experienced judges are more affected by their social value orientation.

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Keywords judicial behavior, office motive, public‐goods experiment, judicial frame, election, experience
JEL Laboratory, Individual Behavior (jel C91), Behavioral Economics; Underlying Principles (jel D03), Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement (jel D63), Bureaucracy; Administrative Processes in Public Organizations; Corruption (jel D73), Structure, Scope, and Performance of Government (jel H11), Public Goods (jel H41), Public Administration; Public Sector Accounting and Audits (jel H83), Litigation Process (jel K41)
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Journal Journal of Legal Studies
Engel, C.W, & Zhurakhovska, L. (2017). You Are In Charge. Experimentally Testing the Motivating Power of Holding a (Judicial) Office. Journal of Legal Studies, 2017(46), 1–50. doi:10.2139/ssrn.2214525