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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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  3. Güth, Werner & Levati, M. Vittoria & Ploner, Matteo, 2008. "Social identity and trust--An experimental investigation," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 37(4), pages 1293-1308, August.
  4. 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.
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  7. Fehr, Ernst & Schmidt, Klaus M., 1999. "A theory of fairness, competition, and cooperation," Munich Reprints in Economics 20650, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  8. Avner Ben-Ner & Brian McCall & Massoud Stephane & Hua Wang, . "Identity and Self-Other Differentiation in Work and Giving Behaviors: Experimental Evidence," Working Papers 0805, Human Resources and Labor Studies, University of Minnesota (Twin Cities Campus).
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  12. Canegallo, Claudia & Ortona, Guido & Ottone, Stefania & Ponzano, Ferruccio & Scacciati, Francesco, 2008. "Competition versus cooperation: Some experimental evidence," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 37(1), pages 18-30, February.
  13. Karla Hoff & Priyanka Pandey, 2006. "Discrimination, Social Identity, and Durable Inequalities," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(2), pages 206-211, May.
  14. McLeish, Kendra N. & Oxoby, Robert J., 2007. "Identity, Cooperation, and Punishment," IZA Discussion Papers 2572, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  15. David K Levine, 1997. "Modeling Altruism and Spitefulness in Experiments," Levine's Working Paper Archive 2047, David K. Levine.
  16. Schotter, Andrew & Weiss, Avi & Zapater, Inigo, 1996. "Fairness and survival in ultimatum and dictatorship games," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 37-56, October.
  17. Wolfgang Pesendorfer & Faruk Gul, 2007. "The Canonical Space for Behavioral Types," Levine's Bibliography 843644000000000345, UCLA Department of Economics.
  18. George A. Akerlof & Rachel E. Kranton, 2000. "Economics and Identity," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 115(3), pages 715-753.
  19. Wit, Arjaan P. & Wilke, Henk A. M., 1992. "The effect of social categorization on cooperation in three types of social dilemmas," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 13(1), pages 135-151, March.
  20. Ahmed, Ali M., 2007. "Group identity, social distance and intergroup bias," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 28(3), pages 324-337, June.
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  23. Eckel, Catherine C. & Grossman, Philip J., 2005. "Managing diversity by creating team identity," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 58(3), pages 371-392, November.
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