Natural and strategic generosity as signals of trustworthiness
Title: Natural and strategic generosity as signals of trustworthiness
Publisher: Public Library Science
Citation: PLOS one, 2014, Vol. 9, No. 5, online
We exploit the fact that generosity and trustworthiness are highly correlated and the former can thus be a sign of the latter. Subjects decide between a generous and a mean split in a dictator game. Some of them are informed from the start that afterwards they will participate in a trust game and that their choice in the dictator game may matter; others are not informed in advance. In the trust game, before trusters decide whether or not to trust, some trustees can reveal (or conceal) only their true choice in the dictator game, while others can say to trusters, truthfully or otherwise, what they chose. We find that a generous choice made naturally by uninformed trustees and reliably revealed is more effective in persuading trusters to trust than a generous choice that could be strategic or a lie. Moreover, we find that, when they can, mean subjects lie and go on to be untrustworthy.
Subject: Competitive altruism; experimental tests; partner choice; trust game; reciprocity; reputation; cooperation; evolution; cues; preferences
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