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

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  • Felix Oberholzer-Gee
  • Joel Waldfogel

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Felix Oberholzer-Gee & Joel Waldfogel, 2003. "Social Learning and Coordination in High-Stakes Games: Evidence from Friend or Foe," CREMA Working Paper Series 2003-01, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA).
  • Handle: RePEc:cra:wpaper:2003-01
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Simon Gachter & Ernst Fehr, 2000. "Cooperation and Punishment in Public Goods Experiments," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(4), pages 980-994, September.
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    4. Cameron, Lisa A, 1999. "Raising the Stakes in the Ultimatum Game: Experimental Evidence from Indonesia," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 37(1), pages 47-59, January.
    5. Kachelmeier, Steven J & Shehata, Mohamed, 1994. "Examining Risk Preferences under High Monetary Incentives: Reply," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(4), pages 1105-1106, September.
    6. Metrick, Andrew, 1995. "A Natural Experiment in "Jeopardy!"," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(1), pages 240-253, March.
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    8. Rabin, Matthew, 1993. "Incorporating Fairness into Game Theory and Economics," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(5), pages 1281-1302, December.
    9. repec:fth:prinin:345 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. 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..
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    Cited by:

    1. Kocher, Martin G. & Martinsson, Peter & Visser, Martine, 2008. "Does stake size matter for cooperation and punishment?," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 99(3), pages 508-511, June.
    2. Geerling, Wayne & Magee, Gary B. & Brooks, Robert, 2015. "Cooperation, defection and resistance in Nazi Germany," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 58(C), pages 125-139.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods
    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law
    • A13 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Relation of Economics to Social Values
    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments

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