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Consensus vs. Conformity in Mixed-Motive Games


  • Michael Naef
  • Alessandro Sontuoso

    () (Philosophy, Politics and Economics, University of Pennsylvania)


A correlation between second-order beliefs and strategies – in social dilemmas – has been interpreted as evidence of guilt aversion (Charness and Dufwenberg [2006]). Ellingsen et al. [2010] hypothesize that such correlation might rather be due to consensus effects. Here we propose an additional explanation, conformity, which involves a similar belief-behavior correlation and we set out to tell these motivations apart by proposing a design such that: (i) we reduce the scope for guilt aversion by eliciting and transmitting beliefs about the behavior of other participants in the same role; (ii) we disentangle consensus from conformity by providing an exogenous variation in collective beliefs. The data show that consensus is present (and predominant) but is not the only force driving the belief-behavior correlation. In fact, we also observe “self-servingly conformist” behavior in that subjects choose to match their strategy to the transmitted information when it is in their interest to do so.

Suggested Citation

  • Michael Naef & Alessandro Sontuoso, 2014. "Consensus vs. Conformity in Mixed-Motive Games," PPE Working Papers 0002, Philosophy, Politics and Economics, University of Pennsylvania.
  • Handle: RePEc:ppc:wpaper:0002

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Ellingsen, Tore & Johannesson, Magnus & Tjøtta, Sigve & Torsvik, Gaute, 2010. "Testing guilt aversion," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 68(1), pages 95-107, January.
    2. Bicchieri, Cristina & Erte, Xiao, 2007. "Do the right thing: But only if others do so," MPRA Paper 4609, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Rabin, Matthew, 1994. "Cognitive dissonance and social change," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 23(2), pages 177-194, March.
    4. James Andreoni & B. Douglas Bernheim, 2009. "Social Image and the 50-50 Norm: A Theoretical and Experimental Analysis of Audience Effects," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 77(5), pages 1607-1636, September.
    5. Christoph Vanberg, 2008. "Why Do People Keep Their Promises? An Experimental Test of Two Explanations -super-1," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 76(6), pages 1467-1480, November.
    6. Urs Fischbacher, 2007. "z-Tree: Zurich toolbox for ready-made economic experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 10(2), pages 171-178, June.
    7. Sontuoso, Alessandro, 2013. "A Dynamic Model of Belief-Dependent Conformity to Social Norms," MPRA Paper 53234, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    8. Cristina Bicchieri & Alessandro Sontuoso, 2014. "I Cannot Cheat on You after We Talk," PPE Working Papers 0001, Philosophy, Politics and Economics, University of Pennsylvania.
    9. Dufwenberg, Martin & Gneezy, Uri, 2000. "Measuring Beliefs in an Experimental Lost Wallet Game," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 30(2), pages 163-182, February.
    10. Jason Dana & Roberto Weber & Jason Kuang, 2007. "Exploiting moral wiggle room: experiments demonstrating an illusory preference for fairness," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 33(1), pages 67-80, October.
    11. Guerra, Gerardo & John Zizzo, Daniel, 2004. "Trust responsiveness and beliefs," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 55(1), pages 25-30, September.
    12. Michael Bacharach & Gerardo Guerra & Daniel Zizzo, 2007. "The Self-Fulfilling Property of Trust: An Experimental Study," Theory and Decision, Springer, vol. 63(4), pages 349-388, December.
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    More about this item


    conformist preferences; consensus effects; guilt aversion; social norms; trust; experiment;

    JEL classification:

    • C72 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Noncooperative Games
    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior

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