The axioms of expected utility and discounted utility theory have been tested extensively. In contrast, the axioms of social welfare functions have only been tested in a few questionnaire studies involving choices between hypothetical income distributions. In this note, we conduct a controlled experiment with 100 subjects in the role of social planners that tests five fundamental properties of social welfare functions to provide a basic test of cardinal social choice theory. We find that four properties of the standard social welfare functions tested are systematically violated, producing an Allais paradox, a common ratio effect, a framing effect, and a skewness effect in social choice. We also develop a model of salience based social choice which predicts these systematic deviations and highlights the close relationship between these anomalies and the classical paradoxes for risk and time.
Schneider, M., & Leland, J. W. (2019). Salience and social choice. ESI Working Paper 19-08. Retrieved from https://digitalcommons.chapman.edu/esi_working_papers/265/