Eyes are on Us, But Nobody Cares: Are Eye Cues Relevant for Strong Reciprocity?

Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, Vol. 277(1686), pp. 1315-1323, 2010

27 Pages Posted: 23 Aug 2012

See all articles by Ernst Fehr

Ernst Fehr

University of Zurich - Department of Economics

Frédéric Schneider

University of Cambridge - Judge Business School

Date Written: September 1, 2009

Abstract

Strong reciprocity is characterized by the willingness to altruistically reward cooperative acts and to altruistically punish norm-violating, defecting behaviours. Recent evidence suggests that subtle reputation cues, such as eyes staring at subjects during their choices, may enhance prosocial behaviour. Thus, in principle, strong reciprocity could also be affected by eye cues. We investigate the impact of eye cues on trustees' altruistic behaviour in a trust game and find zero effect. Neither the subjects who are classified as prosocial nor the subjects who are classified as selfish respond to these cues. In sharp contrast to the irrelevance of subtle reputation cues for strong reciprocity, we find a large effect of explicit, pecuniary reputation incentives on the trustees' prosociality. Trustees who can acquire a good reputation that benefits them in future interactions honour trust much more than trustees who cannot build a good reputation. These results cast doubt on hypotheses suggesting that strong reciprocity is easily malleable by implicit reputation cues not backed by explicit reputation incentives.

Keywords: Trust Game, Experiment, Reputation, Evolutionary Psychology, Reciprocity, Eye Cues

JEL Classification: C72, C91, D03

Suggested Citation

Fehr, Ernst and Schneider, Frédéric, Eyes are on Us, But Nobody Cares: Are Eye Cues Relevant for Strong Reciprocity? (September 1, 2009). Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, Vol. 277(1686), pp. 1315-1323, 2010. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2134127

Ernst Fehr

University of Zurich - Department of Economics ( email )

Blümlisalpstrasse 10
Zuerich, 8006
Switzerland
+41 1 634 3709 (Phone)
+41 1 634 4907 (Fax)

Frédéric Schneider (Contact Author)

University of Cambridge - Judge Business School ( email )

Trumpington Street
Cambridge, CB2 1AG
United Kingdom

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