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April 27, 2011

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Keith

How do you scale up such experiments?

Is there proof they demonstrate real world social behaviour?

Cahal

I'm not sure about this. In Superfreakoomics they cited an experiment where people tried things like this in the real world as opposed to a lab, and the findings were basically the exact opposite.

Ben Daniels

Were there results published for how much money was given *back*? The first part of the game has strategic interdependence; in the second stage it's always dominant to take all the money.

Paul Zak has run a series of experiments just like this where he identified a hormone (oxytocin) that correlates strongly with the more generous outcomes on both sides. Later, when he introduced the hormone to the subjects, those subjects were more generous.

What Zak dubbed the "moral molecule" seems to cause the feeling of trust -- but it only lasts in the human body for a few minutes. It seems to me that this biological basis for generosity could just as easily be identified as "irrationality", since it leads players in these games to non-Nash -- but strictly superior -- outcomes. Which is preferred from a social standpoint.

I chatted with Dan Ariely about this and he said he'd been unable to get FDA approval for the same technique in his own irrationality experiments, but that it definitely made sense from the evolutionary standpoint -- it's really useful to have us be randomly irrational in situations where rational behavior makes us collectively worse off.

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