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Social Learning and Coordination in High-Stakes Games: Evidence from Friend or Foe

  • Felix Oberholzer-Gee
  • Joel Waldfogel

We analyze the behavior of game-show contestants who play a one-shot game called Friend or Foe. While it is a weakly dominant strategy not to cooperate, almost half the contestants on the show choose to play ?friend.? Remarkably, the behavior of contestants remains uncha nged even when stakes are very high, ranging from $200 to more than $10,000. We conclude that the frequent cooperation observed in one-shot social dilemma games is not an artefact of the low stakes typically used in laboratory experiments. Strategic decisions on Friend or Foe change markedly if players can observe previous episodes. We show that these contestants play ?friend? if they have reason to expect their opponent to play ?friend,? and they play ?foe? otherwise. The observed decisions are consistent with recent fairness theories that characterize individuals as conditional cooperators. Using information about past play, some groups (e.g., pairs of women) manage to stabilize cooperation in this high- stakes environment. For most others, improved coordination implies a drastic decline in monetary winnings. Prior to playing the social dilemma game, contestants ?produce? their endowment by answering trivia questions. We find some evidence for reciprocal behavior: Players who produce fewer correct answers for their team are more likely to cooperate in the social dilemma game.

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Paper provided by Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA) in its series CREMA Working Paper Series with number 2003-01.

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Date of creation: Jun 2003
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Handle: RePEc:cra:wpaper:2003-01
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  1. Ernst Fehr & Simon Gaechter, . "Cooperation and Punishment in Public Goods Experiments," IEW - Working Papers 010, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  2. Lisa Cameron, 1995. "Raising the Stakes in the Ultimatum Game: Experimental Evidence From Indonesia," Working Papers 724, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  3. Matthew Rabin., 1992. "Incorporating Fairness into Game Theory and Economics," Economics Working Papers 92-199, University of California at Berkeley.
  4. Metrick, Andrew, 1995. "A Natural Experiment in "Jeopardy!"," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(1), pages 240-53, March.
  5. repec:pri:indrel:345 is not listed on IDEAS
  6. Hans Binswanger, 1980. "Attitudes toward risk: Experimental measurement in rural india," Artefactual Field Experiments 00009, The Field Experiments Website.
  7. Robert Slonim & Alvin E. Roth, 1998. "Learning in High Stakes Ultimatum Games: An Experiment in the Slovak Republic," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 66(3), pages 569-596, May.
  8. Kachelmeier, Steven J & Shehata, Mohamed, 1994. "Examining Risk Preferences under High Monetary Incentives: Reply," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(4), pages 1105-06, September.
  9. Axel Ockenfels & Gary E. Bolton, 2000. "ERC: A Theory of Equity, Reciprocity, and Competition," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(1), pages 166-193, March.
  10. repec:fth:prinin:345 is not listed on IDEAS
  11. Camerer, Colin F. & Hogarth, Robin M., 1999. "The Effects of Financial Incentives in Experiments: A Review and Capital-Labor-Production Framework," Working Papers 1059, California Institute of Technology, Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences.
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