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Beliefs and actions in the trust game: Creating instrumental variables to estimate the causal effect

  • Costa-Gomes, Miguel A.
  • Huck, Steffen
  • Weizsäcker, Georg

In many economic contexts, an elusive variable of interest is the agent's belief about relevant events, e.g. about other agents' behavior. A growing number of surveys and experiments ask participants to state beliefs explicitly but little is known about the causal relation between beliefs and other behavioral variables. This paper discusses the possibility of creating exogenous instrumental variables for belief statements, by informing the agent about exogenous manipulations of the relevant events. We conduct trust game experiments where the amount sent back by the second player (trustee) is exogenously varied. The procedure allows detecting causal links from beliefs to actions under plausible assumptions. The IV-estimated effect is significant, confirming the causal role of beliefs. It is only slightly and insignificantly smaller than in estimations without instrumentation, consistent with a mild effect of social norms or other omitted variables.

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Paper provided by Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB) in its series Discussion Papers, Research Unit: Economics of Change with number SP II 2012-302.

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Date of creation: 2012
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Handle: RePEc:zbw:wzbeoc:spii2012302
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  1. Bellemare, C. & Kroger, S. & van Soest, A.H.O., 2008. "Measuring inequity aversion in a heterogeneous population using experimental decisions and subjective probabilities," Other publications TiSEM f17bda32-98f9-4580-ab3f-6, School of Economics and Management.
  2. McKelvey, Richard D & Page, Talbot, 1990. "Public and Private Information: An Experimental Study of Information Pooling," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 58(6), pages 1321-39, November.
  3. Bellemare, Charles & Kröger, Sabine, 2003. "On Representative Trust," SFB 373 Discussion Papers 2003,27, Humboldt University of Berlin, Interdisciplinary Research Project 373: Quantification and Simulation of Economic Processes.
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  6. Costa-Gomes, Miguel A. & Crawford, Vincent P., 2004. "Cognition and Behavior in Two-Person Guessing Games: An Experimental Study," University of California at San Diego, Economics Working Paper Series qt449812fx, Department of Economics, UC San Diego.
  7. Florencia Devoto & Esther Duflo & Pascaline Dupas & William Pariente & Vincent Pons, 2011. "Happiness on Tap: Piped Water Adoption in Urban Morocco," NBER Working Papers 16933, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Charles Bellemare & Alexander Sebald & Martin Strobel, 2010. "Measuring the Willingness to Pay to Avoid Guilt: Estimation using Equilibrium ad Stated Belief Models," Cahiers de recherche 1011, CIRPEE.
  9. Ernst Fehr & Urs Fischbacher & Bernhard von Rosenbladt & Jürgen Schupp & Gert G. Wagner, 2003. "A Nation-Wide Laboratory. Examining Trust and Trustworthiness by Integrating Behavioral Experiments into Representative Survey," CESifo Working Paper Series 866, CESifo Group Munich.
  10. Blanco, Mariana & Engelmann, Dirk & Koch, Alexander K. & Normann, Hans-Theo, 2008. "Belief Elicitation in Experiments: Is there a Hedging Problem?," IZA Discussion Papers 3517, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
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  12. Miguel A. Costa-Gomes & Georg Weizs�cker, 2008. "Stated Beliefs and Play in Normal-Form Games," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 75(3), pages 729-762.
  13. List, John & Millimet, Daniel, 2005. "The Market: Catalyst for Rationality and Filter of Irrationality," Departmental Working Papers 0504, Southern Methodist University, Department of Economics.
  14. Huck, Steffen & Weizsacker, Georg, 2002. "Do players correctly estimate what others do? : Evidence of conservatism in beliefs," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 47(1), pages 71-85, January.
  15. Orazio P. Attanasio, 2009. "Expectations and Perceptions in Developing Countries: Their Measurement and Their Use," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(2), pages 87-92, May.
  16. Bellemare, Charles & Kröger, Sabine, 2004. "On Representative Social Capital," IZA Discussion Papers 1145, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  17. Berg Joyce & Dickhaut John & McCabe Kevin, 1995. "Trust, Reciprocity, and Social History," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 122-142, July.
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  19. Croson, Rachel T. A., 2000. "Thinking like a game theorist: factors affecting the frequency of equilibrium play," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 41(3), pages 299-314, March.
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  21. Fehr, Ernst & Fischbacher, Urs & Schupp, Jürgen & von Rosenbladt, Bernhard & Wagner, Gert Georg, 2003. "A Nationwide Laboratory Examining Trust and Trustworthiness by Integrating Behavioural Experiments into Representative Surveys," CEPR Discussion Papers 3858, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  22. Cox, James C., 2004. "How to identify trust and reciprocity," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 46(2), pages 260-281, February.
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  26. repec:ner:tilbur:urn:nbn:nl:ui:12-376716 is not listed on IDEAS
  27. Naef, Michael & Schupp, Jürgen, 2009. "Measuring Trust: Experiments and Surveys in Contrast and Combination," IZA Discussion Papers 4087, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  28. Charles Bellemare & Sabine Kröger & Arthur van Soest, 2008. "Measuring Inequity Aversion in a Heterogeneous Population Using Experimental Decisions and Subjective Probabilities," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 76(4), pages 815-839, 07.
  29. Robert Jensen, 2010. "The (Perceived) Returns to Education and the Demand for Schooling," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 125(2), pages 515-548, May.
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