Judgement and Behaviour in the Prisoner's Dilemma: The Impact of Moral and Strategic Considerations

33 Pages Posted: 4 Mar 2012 Last revised: 28 Aug 2012

See all articles by Jan-Erik Lönnqvist

Jan-Erik Lönnqvist

University of Helsinki - Department of Psychology

Jan Sprenger

Tilburg University

Markku Verkasalo

University of Helsinki

Gari Walkowitz

Technische Universität München (TUM) - School of Governance - Hochschule für Politik

Philipp C. Wichardt

University of Rostock - Department of Economics

Date Written: July 14, 2012

Abstract

How do people perceive a social dilemma such as the Prisoner’s Dilemma if the problem is framed focusing entirely on monetary incentives – as commonly done in laboratory experiments? Focusing on the involved conflict between strategic and moral incentives, we designed a two-stage experiment to analyse both the subjects’ judgement (Part 1) and their behaviour (Part 2) in such a setting. In Part 1, we elicited the subjects’ preferences over the different outcomes in the Prisoner’s Dilemma from three different perspectives (moral, strategic, overall). In Part 2, conducted some months later, we let them decide on actions in the respective context. The data show that: (a) subjects can differentiate between moral and strategic incentives; (b) overall preferences are often a combination of moral and strategic preferences; (c) the subjects’ expressed preferences over outcomes are closely aligned with specific personal values; (d) actual behaviour in the lab is primarily determined by the subjects’ (pessimistic) first order beliefs. Moreover, the analysis suggests that while subjects have a more complex and, indeed, socially minded view on the incentive structure of the Prisoner’s Dilemma, the common focus on monetary incentives and anonymity in economic lab experiments directs judgements and behaviour into a special and not necessarily realistic direction.

Keywords: Prisoner's Dilemma, Moral Concerns, Lab Experiments, Social Norms

JEL Classification: A13, C91, Z10

Suggested Citation

Lönnqvist, Jan-Erik and Sprenger, Jan and Verkasalo, Markku and Walkowitz, Gari and Wichardt, Philipp C., Judgement and Behaviour in the Prisoner's Dilemma: The Impact of Moral and Strategic Considerations (July 14, 2012). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2014854 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2014854

Jan-Erik Lönnqvist

University of Helsinki - Department of Psychology ( email )

Meritullinkatu 1
Helsinki 00014
Finland

Jan Sprenger

Tilburg University ( email )

P.O. Box 90153
Tilburg, DC 5000 LE
Netherlands

Markku Verkasalo

University of Helsinki ( email )

University of Helsinki
Helsinki, FIN-00014
Finland

Gari Walkowitz

Technische Universität München (TUM) - School of Governance - Hochschule für Politik ( email )

Richard-Wagner-Str.1
Munich, 80333
Germany

Philipp C. Wichardt (Contact Author)

University of Rostock - Department of Economics ( email )

Ulmenstr. 69
Rostock, 18057
Germany

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