Ackfeld, Viola Sophia (2020). Essays on Repugnance in Economic Transactions. PhD thesis, Universität zu Köln.


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The efficient exchange of goods and services is the core theme of economics and has been extensively studied for decades. However, with respect to some repugnant types of goods like organ and blood donations, personal data, or CO2 emissions, there seems to exist an aversion to trade these goods at all or at least if money is involved. In this thesis, I study situations of economic exchange in terms of their ethical acceptability. Particularly, I investigate the scope and limits of social and monetary incentives by means of experiments in lab, online, and field settings. In the first two chapters, I look at what conditions make people, who favor an outcome, nonetheless refrain from fostering its implementation for others. More precisely, I examine people’s willingness to intervene into others’ decision-making by monetary incentives along with choice-prescribing bans (Chapter 1) or along with information (Chapter 2). My results demonstrate that the perseverance of others’ autonomy to decide for themselves and people’s aversion to make others do something which the latter are not convinced of play an important role when judging the acceptability of economic interventions. In Chapters 3 and 4, I zoom in on one particular good, whose trade may be repugnant, namely the sharing of personal data, and investigate ethical issues with personal data sharing. In Chapter 3, I point out that personal data disclosure competition in modern online markets with both social comparison and high incentives for information sharing can increase information available in the economy, but may come along with a hidden cost of perceived pressure on disclosure-unwilling individuals with high privacy concerns. Focusing not on competition via personal information disclosure but on personal data as contributions to a public good, Chapter 4 highlights that privacy concerns may obfuscate attempts to increase personal data contributions to a public good. Taken together, all chapters of my thesis highlight important ethical but yet economically underesearched issues that have to be taken into account when designing new markets for economic exchange.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD thesis)
CreatorsEmailORCIDORCID Put Code
URN: urn:nbn:de:hbz:38-112921
Date: 2020
Language: English
Faculty: Faculty of Management, Economy and Social Sciences
Divisions: Faculty of Management, Economics and Social Sciences > Economics > Microeconomics, Institutions and markets > Professorship 1 for Economics
Subjects: Economics
Uncontrolled Keywords:
Behavioral EconomicsEnglish
Date of oral exam: 27 April 2020
NameAcademic Title
Ockenfels, AxelProf. Dr.
Heinz, MatthiasProf. Dr.
Refereed: Yes


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