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Emotions and Cooperation in Economic Theory

  • Author(s): Haselhuhn, Michael P.
  • MELLERS, BARBARA A
  • et al.
Abstract

In this paper, we examine decisions to cooperate in economic games. We investigate which payoffs give players the greatest pleasure and whether the pleasure they feel about payoffs predicts their decisions to cooperate. To do this, we modify the ultimatum and dictator games by asking players to consider a fixed set of offers and report their preferences over all offers. Players also report the pleasure they imagine feeling from each possible payoff. Results show that players differ in the extent to which they derive pleasure from fairness or greediness. They also differ in the extent to which their choices depend on what we call "strategic" and "non-strategic" pleasure. Strategic pleasure is the expected pleasure of offers, whereas non-strategic pleasure is the pleasure of accepted payoffs. Players whose pleasure primarily depends on larger payoffs tend to make fair offers in the ultimatum game and selfish offers in the dictator game. They maximize strategic pleasure in the ultimatum game and non-strategic pleasure in the dictator game. Players who derive greater pleasure from fairness tend to act fairly in both games. These players maximize non-strategic pleasure. Brain imaging studies should address the question of whether the observed differences in pleasure and preference are systematically linked to differences in neurological activation.

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