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Expressed Preferences and Behavior in Experimental Games

  • Author(s): Charness, Gary B
  • Rabin, Matthew
  • et al.
Abstract

Participants in experimental games typically can only choose actions, without making comments about other participants’ future actions. In sequential two-person games, we allow first movers to express a preference between responder choices. We find that responder behavior differs substantially according to whether first movers express a hope for favorable or unfavorable treatment. Responders largely ignore first movers’ expressed preferences for favorable responses, however, when the first movers misbehave. As in earlier experiments without preference expression, subjects assign a high positive weight to another person’s payoffs when ahead and misbehavior elicits a strong negative response. Logit regressions estimate the weight placed on another (non-misbehaving) person’s payoffs to be positive, even when one is behind. There is suggestive evidence that positive reciprocity is enhanced when a preference for favorable treatment is expressed.

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