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
Date Written: October 11, 2014
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: Suggested Citation