The Human Face of Game Theory: Trust and Reciprocity in Sequential Games

TRUST AND RECIPROCITY: INTERDISCIPLINARY LESSONS FROM EXPERIMENTAL RESEARCH, pp. 245-274, Elinor Ostrom, Jimmy Walker, eds., Russell Sage Foundation, 2003

69 Pages Posted: 16 May 2011

See all articles by Catherine C. Eckel

Catherine C. Eckel

Texas A&M University

Rick K. Wilson

Rice University - Department of Political Science

Date Written: 2003

Abstract

The Nash equilibrium predictions of standard game theory often fail in experimental test. While innumerable refinements to Nash equilibrium have been suggested, they too fail in empirical tests. What seems apparent is that humans rely on a rich mixture of contextual cues and signals to determine how to strategize about their own choices and those of their counterparts.

Our research concentrates on a simple social signal – the human face. In particular we examine the emotional cues registered by the face and investigate the meaning of those cues mean for signaling an actor’s intentions. We explore the impact of facial cues in two sets of experiments. The first concerns human facial expressions. In the second set of experiments we simplify and control the facial cues by substituting schematic line drawings that resemble the ubiquitous “happy face”. We focus on the two-branch, sequential bargaining game developed by Hoffman, McCabe and Smith. Our findings suggest that intentions to trust and reciprocate can be signaled by facial expressions.

Suggested Citation

Eckel, Catherine C. and Wilson, Rick K., The Human Face of Game Theory: Trust and Reciprocity in Sequential Games (2003). TRUST AND RECIPROCITY: INTERDISCIPLINARY LESSONS FROM EXPERIMENTAL RESEARCH, pp. 245-274, Elinor Ostrom, Jimmy Walker, eds., Russell Sage Foundation, 2003. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1843493

Catherine C. Eckel (Contact Author)

Texas A&M University ( email )

5201 University Blvd.
College Station, TX 77843-4228
United States

Rick K. Wilson

Rice University - Department of Political Science ( email )

Houston, TX 77005-1892
United States

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