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Moral values and increasing stakes in a dictator game

Uta Schier, Axel Ockenfels and Wilhelm Hofmann
2016. Journal of Economic Psychology, 56, 107-115.

Using data from a large representative US sample (N = 1519), we compare hypothetical moral fairness values from the Moral Foundations Sacredness Scale with actual fairness behavior in an incentivized dictator game with either low or high stakes. We find that people with high moral fairness values fail to live up to their high fairness standards, when stake size increases. This violates principles from consistency theories according to which moral values are supposedly aligned with moral behavior, but is in line with temptation theories that question the absoluteness of morality values.

Social interaction promotes risk taking in a stag hunt game

Gary Bolton, Christoph Feldhaus and Axel Ockenfels
2016. German Economic Review, 17(3), 409-423.

We demonstrate that people are more willing to take risks in a stag hunt game when the agent of uncertainty is another person, thereby promoting cooperation. Recent social cognition research suggests an explanation for this pattern, which is based on the idea that games that align interests between subjects activate a trust mindset.

More than words: the effects of cheap talk in a volunteer’s dilemma

Christoph Feldhaus and Julia Stauf
2016. Experimental Economics, 19(2), 342–359.

We theoretically and experimentally investigate a game in which exactly one person should make a costly effort to achieve a socially efficient outcome. This setting is commonly known as the volunteer’s dilemma. We implement one-way communication by allowing one player to send a message indicating whether she intends to volunteer and investigate the message’s effects on behavior and efficiency in the subsequent game. We theoretically demonstrate that there are asymmetric mixed-strategy equilibria in the volunteer’s dilemma and argue that one of these is likely to emerge through one-way communication. The experimental data support this notion. We find that the actions of both the sender and receiver of the message are crucially affected by the cheap talk stage and that efficiency in the volunteer’s dilemma increases with one-way communication.