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Neural Responses to Sanction Threats in Two-Party Economic Exchange

  • Jian Li

    ()

    (Department of Psychology, New York University)

  • Erte Xiao

    ()

    (Department of Social and Decision Sciences, Carnegie Mellon University)

  • Daniel Houser

    ()

    (Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science and Department of Economics, George Mason University)

  • P. Read Montague

    ()

    (Menninger Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, Baylor College of Medicine)

Sanctions are used ubiquitously to enforce obedience to social norms. Recent field studies and laboratory experiments have demonstrated, however, that cooperation is sometimes reduced when incentives meant to promote pro-social decisions are added to the environment. Although a variety of explanations have been suggested, the neural foundations of this effect have not been fully explored. Using a modified trust game, we find trustees reciprocate relatively less when facing sanction threats, and the presence of sanctions significantly reduces trusteeÕs brain activities involved in social reward valuation (VMPFC, LOFC, and Amygdala), while simultaneously increases brain activities in parietal cortex previously implicated in rational decision making. Moreover, we find that neural activity in trusteeÕs VMPFC area predicts her future level of cooperation under both sanction and no-sanction conditions, and that this predictive activity can be dynamically modulated by the presence of a sanction threat.

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Paper provided by George Mason University, Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science in its series Working Papers with number 1012.

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Length: 25 pages
Date of creation: Jun 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:gms:wpaper:1012
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  1. Daniel Houser & Erte Xiao & Kevin McCabe & Vernon Smith, 2005. "When Punishment Fails: Research on Sanctions, Intentions and Non- Cooperation," Experimental 0502001, EconWPA, revised 18 Feb 2005.
  2. Engelmann Dirk & Strobel Martin, 2002. "Inequality Aversion, Efficiency, and Maximin Preferences in Simple Distribution Experiments," Research Memorandum 015, Maastricht University, Maastricht Economic Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (MERIT).
  3. James Andreoni & William T. harbaugh & Lise Vesterlund, 2002. "The Carrot or the Stick: Rewards, Punishments, and Cooperation," University of Oregon Economics Department Working Papers 2002-01, University of Oregon Economics Department, revised 20 Aug 2002.
  4. David Dickinson & Marie-Claire Villeval, 2004. "Does Monitoring Decrease Work Effort? The Complementarity Between Agency and Crowding-Out Theories," Post-Print halshs-00175010, HAL.
  5. Falk, Armin & Fischbacher, Urs, 2006. "A theory of reciprocity," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 54(2), pages 293-315, February.
  6. Ellingsen, Tore & Johannesson, Magnus, 2006. "Pride and Prejudice: The Human Side of Incentive Theory," CEPR Discussion Papers 5768, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  7. M. Rabin, 2001. "Incorporating Fairness into Game Theory and Economics," Levine's Working Paper Archive 511, David K. Levine.
  8. Dufwenberg, Martin & Kirchsteiger, Georg, 2004. "A theory of sequential reciprocity," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 47(2), pages 268-298, May.
  9. Fehr, Ernst & Schmidt, Klaus M., 1998. "A Theory of Fairness, Competition and Cooperation," CEPR Discussion Papers 1812, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  10. Benoit, Jean-Pierre & Krishna, Vijay, 1985. "Finitely Repeated Games," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 53(4), pages 905-22, July.
  11. Friedman, James W., 1985. "Cooperative equilibria in finite horizon noncooperative supergames," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 35(2), pages 390-398, August.
  12. Ernst Fehr & Bettina Rockenbach, 2003. "Detrimental effects of sanctions on human altruism," Microeconomics 0305007, EconWPA.
  13. Frey, Bruno S, 1993. "Does Monitoring Increase Work Effort? The Rivalry with Trust and Loyalty," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 31(4), pages 663-70, October.
  14. Cox, James C., 2004. "How to identify trust and reciprocity," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 46(2), pages 260-281, February.
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