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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Emotions in Games: Toward a Unified Process-Level Account


Strategic decision-making is chiefly studied in behavioral economics using multi-agent games. Decades of empirical research has revealed that emotions play a crucial role in strategic decision-making, calling into question the “emotionless” homo economicus. In this work, we present a unified process-level account of a broad range of empirical findings on the effect of emotions in Prisoner’s Dilemma and Ultimatum games—the two most studied games in behavioral sciences. Under the empirically well-supported assumption that emotions modulate loss aversion, we show that Nobandegani et al.’s (2018) sample-based expected utility model can account for the effect of emotions on: (i) cooperation rate in Prisoner’s Dilemma, and (ii) the rejection rate of unfair offers in the Ultimatum game. We conclude by discussing the implications of our work for emotion research, and for developing a unified process-level account of the role of emotions in strategic decision-making.

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