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Smiling is a Costly Signal of Cooperation Opportunities: Experimental Evidence from a Trust Game

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  • Centorrino, Samuele
  • Djemai, Elodie
  • Hopfensitz, Astrid
  • Milinski, Manfred
  • Seabright, Paul

Abstract

We test the hypothesis that "genuine" or "convincing" smiling is a costly signal that has evolved to induce cooperation in situations requiring mutual trust. Potential trustees in a trust game made video clips for viewing by potential trusters before the latter decided whether to send them money. Ratings of the genuineness of smiles vary across clips; it is difficult to make convincing smiles to order. We argue that smiling convincingly is costly, because smiles from trustees playing for higher stakes are rated as significantly more convincing, so that rewards appear to induce effort. We show that it induces cooperation: smiles rated as more convincing strongly predict judgments about the trustworthiness of trustees, and willingness to send them money. Finally, we show that it is a honest signal: those smiling convincingly return more money on average to senders. Convincing smiles are to some extent a signal of the intrinsic character of trustees: less honest individuals find smiling convincingly more difficult. They are also informative about the greater amounts that trustees playing for higher stakes have available to share: it is harder to smile convincingly if you have less to offer.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 8374.

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Date of creation: May 2011
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:8374

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Keywords: costly signaling; experiment; Smiling; trust game; video;

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References

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  1. Manzini, P. & Sadrieh, A. & Vriend, N.J., 2002. "On Smiles, Winks, and Handshakes as Coordination Devices," Discussion Paper 2002-40, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
  2. George Loewenstein, 2000. "Emotions in Economic Theory and Economic Behavior," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(2), pages 426-432, May.
  3. Jon Elster, 1998. "Emotions and Economic Theory," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(1), pages 47-74, March.
  4. Astrid Hopfensitz & Ernesto Reuben, 2005. "The Importance of Emotions for the Effectiveness of Social Punishment," Discussion Papers 06-09, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics, revised Mar 2006.
  5. Berg Joyce & Dickhaut John & McCabe Kevin, 1995. "Trust, Reciprocity, and Social History," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 122-142, July.
  6. Scharlemann, Jorn P. W. & Eckel, Catherine C. & Kacelnik, Alex & Wilson, Rick K., 2001. "The value of a smile: Game theory with a human face," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 22(5), pages 617-640, October.
  7. Daniel Kahneman, 2003. "A Psychological Perspective on Economics," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(2), pages 162-168, May.
  8. Ronald Bosman & Frans van Winden, 2002. "Emotional Hazard in a Power-to-take Experiment," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(476), pages 147-169, January.
  9. Sung Ha Hwang & Samuel Bowles, 2008. "Is altruism bad for cooperation?," UMASS Amherst Economics Working Papers 2008-13, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Department of Economics.
  10. Bruno S. Frey, 2008. "Happiness: A Revolution in Economics," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262062771.
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Cited by:
  1. Bonnefon, Jean-François & De Neys, Wim & Hopfensitz, Astrid, 2012. "The Modular Nature of Trustworthiness Detection," TSE Working Papers 12-311, Toulouse School of Economics (TSE).

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