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Towards an understanding of the endogenous nature of identity in games

  • Bezrukova, Katerina
  • Smith, John

We test the assumption that preferences are unchanged throughout a strategic game in the absence of feedback. To do so, we study the relationship between the strategic nature of a game and players' identification in social groups. We present evidence that the strategic nature of the game affects the strength of identity. We also present evidence regarding the timing of the change in identity and what causes this change. In our experiment, the subjects play one of two versions of the Prisoner's Dilemma game where the attractiveness of the uncooperative action is manipulated. We refer to the version with a relatively attractive uncooperative action as the "Mean Game" and the other as the "Nice Game." We place each subject into one of two groups. Throughout the experimental procedure we measure identity, as standard in the psychology literature, in order to assess the extent to which subjects identify with their group. First, we find evidence of an interaction between the strategic nature of the game and the action selected in the game as affecting the identity of the subject. We find that in the Mean Game, there is little difference in the change in identification of those playing cooperatively against an ingroup member and those playing uncooperatively. However, in the Nice Game, those playing cooperatively against an ingroup member exhibit a significantly stronger change in identification than those playing uncooperatively. We find that the opposite is true for outgroup matches. Also, we show that the change in identity does not occur after initial inspection of the game but rather largely after the action choice has been made. Finally, we present evidence of an explanation of the effect: identity is enhanced by actions which are perceived to be less competitive and more cooperative.

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Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 14447.

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Date of creation: 03 Dec 2008
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Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:14447
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  8. Schotter, A. & Weiss, A. & Zapater, I., 1993. "Fairness and Survival in Ultimatum and Dictatorship Games," Working Papers 93-01, C.V. Starr Center for Applied Economics, New York University.
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  12. Jeffrey Carpenter, 2002. "Endogenouse Social Preferences," Middlebury College Working Paper Series 0209, Middlebury College, Department of Economics.
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  17. David K Levine, 1997. "Modeling Altruism and Spitefulness in Experiments," Levine's Working Paper Archive 2047, David K. Levine.
  18. Yan Chen & Sherry Xin Li, 2009. "Group Identity and Social Preferences," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(1), pages 431-57, March.
  19. James Andreoni & John Miller, 2002. "Giving According to GARP: An Experimental Test of the Consistency of Preferences for Altruism," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(2), pages 737-753, March.
  20. George A. Akerlof, 1997. "Social Distance and Social Decisions," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 65(5), pages 1005-1028, September.
  21. Morton Deutsch, 1958. "Trust and suspicion," Journal of Conflict Resolution, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 2(4), pages 265-279, December.
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  24. Samuel Bowles, 1998. "Endogenous Preferences: The Cultural Consequences of Markets and Other Economic Institutions," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(1), pages 75-111, March.
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