Heuristics Guide the Implementation of Social Preferences in One-Shot Prisoner’s Dilemma Experiments

Forthcoming in Scientific Reports

5 Pages Posted: 28 Apr 2014 Last revised: 23 Apr 2015

See all articles by Valerio Capraro

Valerio Capraro

Middlesex University

Jillian Jordan

Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University

David G. Rand

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Date Written: October 11, 2014

Abstract

Cooperation in one-shot anonymous interactions is a widely documented aspect of human behaviour. Here we shed light on the motivations behind this behaviour by experimentally exploring cooperation in a one-shot continuous-strategy Prisoner’s Dilemma (i.e. one-shot two-player Public Goods Game). We examine the distribution of cooperation amounts, and how that distribution varies based on the benefit-to-cost ratio of cooperation (b/c). Interestingly, we find a trimodal distribution at all b/c values investigated. Increasing b/c decreases the fraction of participants engaging in zero cooperation and increases the fraction engaging in maximal cooperation, suggesting a role for efficiency concerns. However, a substantial fraction of participants consistently engage in 50% cooperation regardless of b/c. The presence of these persistent 50% cooperators is surprising, and not easily explained by standard models of social preferences. We present evidence that this behaviour is a result of social preferences guided by simple decision heuristics, rather than the rational examination of payoffs assumed by most social preference models. We also find a strong correlation between play in the Prisoner’s Dilemma and in a subsequent Dictator Game, confirming previous findings suggesting a common prosocial motivation underlying altruism and cooperation.

Keywords: cooperation, prisoner's dilemma, fairness, inequity aversion, prosociality

JEL Classification: C70, C79, C90, C91, C92, D64, D70

Suggested Citation

Capraro, Valerio and Jordan, Jillian and Rand, David G., Heuristics Guide the Implementation of Social Preferences in One-Shot Prisoner’s Dilemma Experiments (October 11, 2014). Forthcoming in Scientific Reports, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2429862 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2429862

Valerio Capraro

Middlesex University ( email )

The Burroughs
London, NW4 4BT
United Kingdom

Jillian Jordan

Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University ( email )

2211 Campus Drive
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

David G. Rand (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) ( email )

77 Massachusetts Avenue
50 Memorial Drive
Cambridge, MA 02139-4307
United States

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