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Towards an Understanding of the Endogenous Nature of Identity in Games

  • John Smith

    ()

    (Rutgers University-Camden)

  • Katerina Bezrukova

    ()

    (Santa Clara University)

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 show when the change in identity occurs 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 Rutgers University, Department of Economics in its series Departmental Working Papers with number 200806.

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Length: 20 pages
Date of creation: 27 Oct 2008
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:rut:rutres:200806
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  1. Ahmed, Ali M., 2007. "Group identity, social distance and intergroup bias," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 28(3), pages 324-337, June.
  2. Falk, Armin & Fischbacher, Urs, 2001. "A Theory of Reciprocity," CEPR Discussion Papers 3014, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  3. Fehr, Ernst & Schmidt, Klaus M., 1999. "A theory of fairness, competition, and cooperation," Munich Reprints in Economics 20650, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  4. Avner Ben-Ner & Brian P. McCall & Massoud Stephane & Hua Wang, 2006. "Identity and Self-Other Differentiation in Work and Giving Behaviors: Experimental Evidence," Working Papers 2006.103, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
  5. Daniel Benjamin & James Choi & A. Strickland, 2008. "Social Identity and Preferences," Yale School of Management Working Papers amz2634, Yale School of Management.
  6. Jeffrey Carpenter, 2002. "Endogenouse Social Preferences," Middlebury College Working Paper Series 0209, Middlebury College, Department of Economics.
  7. David K. Levine, 1998. "Modeling Altruism and Spitefulness in Experiment," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 1(3), pages 593-622, July.
  8. George A. Akerlof, 1997. "Social Distance and Social Decisions," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 65(5), pages 1005-1028, September.
  9. Lorenz Goette & David Huffman & Stephan Meier, 2006. "The Impact of Group Membership on Cooperation and Norm Enforcement: Evidence Using Random Assignment to Real Social Groups," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(2), pages 212-216, May.
  10. Karla Hoff & Priyanka Pandey, 2006. "Discrimination, Social Identity, and Durable Inequalities," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(2), pages 206-211, May.
  11. McLeish, Kendra N. & Oxoby, Robert J., 2007. "Identity, Cooperation, and Punishment," IZA Discussion Papers 2572, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  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. Gary Charness & Luca Rigotti & Aldo Rustichini, 2007. "Individual Behavior and Group Membership," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(4), pages 1340-1352, September.
  14. George A. Akerlof & Rachel E. Kranton, 2000. "Economics And Identity," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 115(3), pages 715-753, August.
  15. 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.
  16. Wolfgang Pesendorfer & Faruk Gul, 2007. "The Canonical Space for Behavioral Types," Levine's Bibliography 843644000000000345, UCLA Department of Economics.
  17. 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.
  18. 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.
  19. 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.
  20. 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.
  21. Lee Cronbach, 1951. "Coefficient alpha and the internal structure of tests," Psychometrika, Springer, vol. 16(3), pages 297-334, September.
  22. 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.
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