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Truth or Consequences: An Experiment

  • Jordi Brandts


    (Instituto de Análisis Económico, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Barcelona, Spain)

  • Gary Charness


    (University of California, Santa Barbara, California 94720)

This paper presents evidence that the willingness to punish an unfair action is sensitive to whether this action was preceded by a deceptive message. One player first sends a message indicating an intended play, which is either favorable or unfavorable to the other player in the game. After the message, the sender and the receiver play a simultaneous 2\times 2 game, in which the sender may or may not play according to his message. Outcome cells may, hence, be reached following true or false messages. In the third stage, the receiver may (at a cost) punish or reward, depending on which cell of the simultaneous game has been reached. We test whether receivers' rates of monetary sacrifice depend on the process by which an outcome is reached. We study two decision-elicitation methods: the strategy and the direct response methods. For each method, deception more than doubles the punishment rate as a response to an action that is unfavorable to the receiver. We also find evidence that 17--25% of all participants choose to reward a favorable action choice made by the sender, even though doing so leaves one at a payoff disadvantage. Our results reflect on current economic models of utility and have implications for organizational decision-making behavior.

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Article provided by INFORMS in its journal Management Science.

Volume (Year): 49 (2003)
Issue (Month): 1 (January)
Pages: 116-130

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Handle: RePEc:inm:ormnsc:v:49:y:2003:i:1:p:116-130
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