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Social Norms, Information and Trust among Strangers: Theory and Evidence

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Abstract

Can a social norm of trust and reciprocity emerge among strangers? We investigate this question by examining behavior in an experiment where subjects repeatedly play a two-player binary ―trust‖ game. Players are randomly and anonymously paired with one another in each period. The main questions addressed are whether a social norm of trust and reciprocity emerges under the most extreme information restriction (anonymous community-wide enforcement) or whether trust and reciprocity require additional, individual-specific information about a player’s past history of play and whether that information must be provided freely or at some cost. In the absence of such reputational information, we find that a social norm of trust and reciprocity is difficult to sustain. The provision of reputational information on past individual decisions significantly increases trust and reciprocity, with longer histories yielding the best outcomes. Importantly, we find that making reputational information available at a small cost may also lead to a significant improvement in trust and reciprocity, despite the fact that most subjects do not choose to purchase this information.

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  • John Duffy & Huan Xie & Yong-Ju Lee, 2008. "Social Norms, Information and Trust among Strangers: Theory and Evidence," Working Papers 08007, Concordia University, Department of Economics, revised Jul 2001.
  • Handle: RePEc:crd:wpaper:08007
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    1. repec:eee:jeborg:v:142:y:2017:i:c:p:189-204 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. repec:eee:jeborg:v:142:y:2017:i:c:p:320-330 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Fehr, Dietmar & Sutter, Matthias, 2016. "Gossip and the Efficiency of Interactions," IZA Discussion Papers 9704, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    4. Charness, Gary & Du, Ninghua & Yang, Chun-Lei, 2011. "Trust and trustworthiness reputations in an investment game," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 72(2), pages 361-375, June.
    5. Timothy Cason & Sau-Him Lau & Vai-Lam Mui, 2013. "Learning, teaching, and turn taking in the repeated assignment game," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 54(2), pages 335-357, October.
    6. Lei, Vivian & Masclet, David & Vesely, Filip, 2014. "Competition vs. communication: An experimental study on restoring trust," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 108(C), pages 94-107.
    7. Caleb Cox & Matthew Jones & Kevin Pflum & Paul Healy, 2015. "Revealed reputations in the finitely repeated prisoners’ dilemma," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 58(3), pages 441-484, April.
    8. Kamei, Kenju, 2015. "Endogenous Reputation Formation: Cooperation and Identity under the Shadow of the Future," MPRA Paper 61657, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    9. Bogliacino, Francesco & Grimalda, Gianluca & Jimenez, Laura, 2017. "Consultative Democracy & Trust," MPRA Paper 82138, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    10. Duffy, John & Xie, Huan, 2016. "Group size and cooperation among strangers," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 126(PA), pages 55-74.
    11. Eric Cardella, 2016. "Exploiting the guilt aversion of others: do agents do it and is it effective?," Theory and Decision, Springer, vol. 80(4), pages 523-560, April.
    12. Brown, M. & Serra Garcia, M., 2010. "Relational Contracting Under the Threat of Expropriation – Experimental Evidence," Discussion Paper 2010-85, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
    13. Shu-Heng Chen & Bin-Tzong Chie & Tong Zhang, 2015. "Network-Based Trust Games: An Agent-Based Model," Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation, Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation, vol. 18(3), pages 1-5.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Social Norms; Trust Game; Random Matching; Trust and Reciprocity; Information; Reputational Mechanisms; Experimental Economics.;

    JEL classification:

    • C72 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Noncooperative Games
    • C78 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Bargaining Theory; Matching Theory
    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • C92 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Group Behavior
    • L14 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Transactional Relationships; Contracts and Reputation

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