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Trust Games Measure Trust

  • Daniel Houser
  • Daniel Schunk

    ()

  • Joachim Winter

    ()

    (Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA))

The relationship between trust and risk is a topic of enduring interest. Although there are substantial differences between the ideas the terms express, many researchers from different disciplines have pointed out that these two concepts become very closely related in personal exchange contexts. This raises the important practical concern over whether behaviors in the widely-used “trust game” actually measure trust, or instead reveal more about risk attitudes. It is critical to confront this question rigorously, as data from these games are increasingly used to support conclusions from a wide variety of fields including macroeconomic development, social psychology and cultural anthropology. The aim of this paper is to provide cogent evidence on the relationship between trust and risk in “trust” games. Subjects in our experiment participate either in a trust game or in its risk game counterpart. In the trust version, subjects play a standard trust game and know their counterparts are human. In the risk version, subjects know their counterparts are computers making random decisions. We compare decisions between these treatments, and also correlate behavior with subjects’ risk attitudes as measured by the Holt and Laury (2002) risk instrument. We provide evidence that trusting behavior is different than behavior under risk. In particular, (i) decisions patterns in our trust and risk games are significantly different; and (ii) risk attitudes predict decisions in the risk game, but not the trust game.

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Paper provided by Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA) at the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy in its series MEA discussion paper series with number 06112.

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Date of creation: 31 Dec 2006
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Handle: RePEc:mea:meawpa:06112
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  1. Glaeser, Edward Ludwig & Laibson, David I. & Scheinkman, Jose A. & Soutter, Christine L., 2000. "Measuring Trust," Scholarly Articles 4481497, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  2. Daniel Houser & Michael Keane & Kevin McCabe, 2004. "Behavior in a Dynamic Decision Problem: An Analysis of Experimental Evidence Using a Bayesian Type Classification Algorithm," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 72(3), pages 781-822, 05.
  3. Dohmen, Thomas J & Falk, Armin & Huffman, David & Sunde, Uwe, 2008. "The Intergenerational Transmission of Risk and Trust Attitudes," CEPR Discussion Papers 6844, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  4. Berg Joyce & Dickhaut John & McCabe Kevin, 1995. "Trust, Reciprocity, and Social History," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 122-142, July.
  5. Bohnet, Iris & Zeckhauser, Richard, 2004. "Trust, risk and betrayal," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 55(4), pages 467-484, December.
  6. Eckel, Catherine C. & Wilson, Rick K., 2004. "Is trust a risky decision?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 55(4), pages 447-465, December.
  7. McCabe, Kevin & Houser, Daniel & Ryan, Lee & Smith, Vernon & Trouard, Ted, 2001. "A Functional Imaging Study of Cooperation in Two-Person reciprocal Exchange," MPRA Paper 5172, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  8. Charles A. Holt & Susan K. Laury, 2002. "Risk Aversion and Incentive Effects," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(5), pages 1644-1655, December.
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