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Is trust an ambiguous rather than a risky decision?


  • Anne Corcos

    () (LEM - University Paris 2)

  • François Pannequin

    () (Ecole Normale Supérieure de Cachan and CES)

  • Sacha Bourgeois-gironde

    () (University of Provence)


According to an early approach, the decision to trust in the one-shot anonymous trust game is intuitively tantamount to a risky decision: the willingness to bet on the reciprocation of my investment. In a seminal study, Eckel and Wilson (2004) explored the correlation between risk attitudes (as elicited through a Holt and Laury mechanism) and the behavior of investors in the trust game. They found no correlation: trust decision cannot be viewed as a risky decision. However, since the probabilities of possible returns are unknown, we argue that trust behavior may correlate more specifically with ambiguity aversion rather than with risk aversion. We therefore modified Eckel and Wilson's experimental procedure in order to investigate the question as to whether trust is an ambiguous decision. We extended Holt and Laury switching-point elicitation mechanism between risky lotteries to ambiguous lotteries as Chrakravarty and Roy (2009) did. We then ran an experimental session including a standard one shot anonymous trust game (OSG). We found significant negative correlations between aversion to ambiguity and behavior in OSG. This result is a plea in favor of a decision-theoretical analogy between choices in ambiguous lotteries and trust-games.

Suggested Citation

  • Anne Corcos & François Pannequin & Sacha Bourgeois-gironde, 2012. "Is trust an ambiguous rather than a risky decision?," Economics Bulletin, AccessEcon, vol. 32(3), pages 2255-2266.
  • Handle: RePEc:ebl:ecbull:eb-12-00130

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Sujoy Chakravarty & Jaideep Roy, 2009. "Recursive expected utility and the separation of attitudes towards risk and ambiguity: an experimental study," Theory and Decision, Springer, vol. 66(3), pages 199-228, March.
    2. Houser, Daniel & Schunk, Daniel & Winter, Joachim, 2010. "Distinguishing trust from risk: An anatomy of the investment game," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 74(1-2), pages 72-81, May.
    3. Cohen, Michele & Jaffray, Jean-Yves & Said, Tanios, 1987. "Experimental comparison of individual behavior under risk and under uncertainty for gains and for losses," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 39(1), pages 1-22, February.
    4. Charles A. Holt & Susan K. Laury, 2002. "Risk Aversion and Incentive Effects," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(5), pages 1644-1655, December.
    5. Peter Klibanoff & Massimo Marinacci & Sujoy Mukerji, 2005. "A Smooth Model of Decision Making under Ambiguity," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 73(6), pages 1849-1892, November.
    6. Eckel, Catherine C. & Wilson, Rick K., 2004. "Is trust a risky decision?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 55(4), pages 447-465, December.
    7. Berg Joyce & Dickhaut John & McCabe Kevin, 1995. "Trust, Reciprocity, and Social History," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 122-142, July.
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    Cited by:

    1. Anne Corcos & François Pannequin & Sacha Bourgeois-Gironde, 2012. "Aversions to Trust," Recherches économiques de Louvain, De Boeck Université, vol. 78(3), pages 115-134.
    2. Sonsino, Doron & Shifrin, Max & Lahav, Eyal, 2016. "Disentangling trust from risk-taking: Triadic approach," MPRA Paper 80095, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Espín, Antonio M. & Exadaktylos, Filippos & Neyse, Levent, 2016. "Heterogeneous Motives in the Trust Game: A Tale of Two Roles," Open Access Publications from Kiel Institute for the World Economy 141321, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW).
    4. Fairley, Kim & Sanfey, Alan & Vyrastekova, Jana & Weitzel, Utz, 2016. "Trust and risk revisited," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 57(C), pages 74-85.
    5. Fairley, Kim & Sanfey, Alan & Vyrastekova, Jana & Weitzel, Utz, 2012. "Social risk and ambiguity in the trust game," MPRA Paper 42302, University Library of Munich, Germany.

    More about this item


    risk; ambiguity; trust; trust-game;

    JEL classification:

    • C9 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments
    • D8 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty


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