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Beliefs and actions in the trust game: Creating instrumental variables to estimate the causal effect

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  • Costa-Gomes, Miguel A.
  • Huck, Steffen
  • Weizsäcker, Georg

Abstract

In many economic contexts, an elusive variable of interest is the agent's belief about relevant events, e.g. about other agents' behavior. A growing number of surveys and experiments ask participants to state beliefs explicitly but little is known about the causal relation between beliefs and other behavioral variables. This paper discusses the possibility of creating exogenous instrumental variables for belief statements, by informing the agent about exogenous manipulations of the relevant events. We conduct trust game experiments where the amount sent back by the second player (trustee) is exogenously varied. The procedure allows detecting causal links from beliefs to actions under plausible assumptions. The IV-estimated effect is significant, confirming the causal role of beliefs. It is only slightly and insignificantly smaller than in estimations without instrumentation, consistent with a mild effect of social norms or other omitted variables. -- In vielen ökonomischen Zusammenhängen sind die Erwartungen der Spieler bezüglich relevanter Ereignisse, z. B. über das Verhalten anderer Spieler, eine schwer zu fassende Variable von Interesse. Zwar werden in einer wachsenden Zahl von Untersuchungen und Experimenten Teilnehmer gebeten, ihre Erwartungen ausdrücklich zu nennen, jedoch ist noch wenig bekannt über die Kausalbeziehung zwischen Erwartungen und anderen Verhaltensvariablen. In diesem Paper wird die Möglichkeit diskutiert, Instrumente zur Erhebung von Erwartungen zu kreieren, bei denen der Spieler über exogene Manipulationen der relevanten Ereignisse informiert wird. Wir führen Experimente zu einem Vertrauensspiel durch, bei denen der Betrag, der durch den zweiten Spieler zurückgesendet wird (trustee), exogen variiert wird. Dieses Vorgehen erlaubt die Entdeckung kausaler Wirkungsketten von Erwartungen auf Entscheidungen unter plausiblen Annahmen. Der IV-geschätzte Effekt ist signifikant und bestätigt die kausale Rolle von Erwartungen. Er ist nur wenig kleiner als in Schätzungen ohne Instrumentation und konsistent mit einem leichten Effekt sozialer Normen oder anderen vernachlässigter Variablen.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB) in its series Discussion Papers, Research Unit: Economics of Change with number SP II 2012-302.

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Date of creation: 2012
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Handle: RePEc:zbw:wzbeoc:spii2012302

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Keywords: Social Capital; trust game; instrumental variables; belief elicitation;

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References

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Cited by:
  1. Francesco Farina & Gianluca Grimalda, 2011. "A cross-country experimental comparison of preferences for redistribution," Department of Economic Policy, Finance and Development (DEPFID) University of Siena 0211, Department of Economic Policy, Finance and Development (DEPFID), University of Siena.
  2. Tobias Regner & Gerhard Riener, 2011. "Motivational Cherry Picking," Jena Economic Research Papers 2011-029, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena, Max-Planck-Institute of Economics.
  3. Bracht, Jürgen & Regner, Tobias, 2013. "Moral emotions and partnership," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 39(C), pages 313-326.
  4. Karl Schlag & James Tremewan & Joel van der Weele, 2014. "A Penny for Your Thoughts:A Survey of Methods for Eliciting Beliefs," Vienna Economics Papers 1401, University of Vienna, Department of Economics.
  5. Trautmann, S.T. & Kuilen, G. van de, 2011. "Belief Elicitation: A Horse Race among Truth Serums," Discussion Paper 2011-117, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.

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