Collective Dangerous Behavior: Theory and Evidence on Risk-Taking
It is commonly found that uncertainty helps discipline economic agents in strategic contexts. Using a stochastic variant of the Nash Demand Game, we show that the presence of uncertainty may have a dramatically opposite effect. Cautious (efficient) and dangerous (inefficient) equilibria may co-exist regardless of agents’ risk preferences. We report experimental evidence on these predictions. We find that a risk-taking society may emerge from the decentralized actions of risk-averse individuals. Subjects predominantly play symmetric dangerous equilibria, even when all agents are risk averse. An important driver for this result is the pessimistic beliefs of subjects regarding others’ claims.
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