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Essays on Behavior in Games


This dissertation consists of three chapters researching how individuals behave in game-theoretic situations. Chapter 1 investigates how different fairness concerns impact individual decisions to cooperate. I introduce a new version of the sequential prisoners dilemma where there is a chance the first movers choice is reversed. Experimental results show that second mover cooperation is higher when the first mover has little control over their choice and when the second mover is not told what the first mover chose. While subject behavior is consistent with concerns for fairness, the results indicate that these concerns work in ways not predicted by current theoretical models. Chapter 2 studies how prior ownership can influence bargaining over a jointly produced surplus. Experiments varied whether the proposer or responder received the surplus prior to bargaining and

the strength of punishment. The results suggest that proposers respect prior ownership when the responder has a strong ability to punish, but not when punishment is weak. Responders respect prior ownership when their ability to punish is weak, but reject at high rates when they have strong punishment. I show that an independent measure of rule following can explain the results suggesting that individual behavior in bargaining is driven in part by adherence to social norms. Chapter 3 explores how guilt, shame, and theory of mind (ToM) influence adherence to social norms. Using psychometric measures, I explore how guilt, shame, and ToM are related to following prior ownership norms in a bargaining experiment. Guilt was not predictive of behavior; however, both shame and ToM were. Individuals who had greater feelings of shame were much more likely to respect prior ownership of responders and punish proposers who transgressed prior ownership of responders. Individuals who scored higher in ToM were much more likely to respect prior ownership by proposer. These results suggest that individual differences in shame and ToM are important in understanding adherence to bargaining norms.

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