Management Papers

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Journal Article

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Management Science





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The trust-building process is basic to social science. We investigate it in a laboratory setting using a novel multistage trust game where social gains are achieved if players trust each other in each stage. In each stage, also, players have an opportunity to appropriate these gains or be trustworthy by sharing them. Players are strangers because they do not know the identity of others and they will not play them again. Thus, there is no prospect of future interaction to induce trusting behavior, and we study the trust-building process where there is little scope for social relations and networks.

Standard game theory, which assumes all players are opportunistic and untrustworthy and thus should have zero trust for others, is used to construct a null hypothesis. We test whether people are trusting or trustworthy and examine how inferring the intentions of those who trust affects trustworthiness. We also investigate the effect of stake on trust, and study the evolution of trust.

Results show subjects exhibit some degree of trusting behavior, although a majority of them are not trustworthy and claim the entire social gain. Players are more reluctant to trust in later stages than in earlier ones and are more trustworthy if they are certain of the trustee’s intention. Surprisingly, subjects are more trusting and trustworthy when the stake size increases. Finally, we find the subpopulation that invests in initiating the trust-building process modifies its trusting behavior based on the relative fitness of trust.

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trust building, backward induction, behavioral game theory



Date Posted: 19 February 2018

This document has been peer reviewed.