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Cultural Values and Behavior in Dictator, Ultimatum, and Trust Games: An Experimental Study

Experimental Economics and Culture

ISBN: 978-1-78743-820-0, eISBN: 978-1-78743-819-4

Publication date: 14 December 2018


Culture is a central concept broadly studied in social anthropology and sociology. It has been gaining increasing attention in economics, appearing in research on labor market discrimination, identity, gender, and social preferences. Most experimental economics research on culture studies cross-national or cross-ethnic differences in economic behavior. In contrast, we explain laboratory behavior using two cultural dimensions adopted from a prominent general cultural framework in contemporary social anthropology: group commitment and grid control. Groupness measures the extent to which individual identity is incorporated into group or collective identity; gridness measures the extent to which social and political prescriptions intrinsically influence individual behavior. Grid-group characteristics are measured for each individual using selected items from the World Values Survey. We hypothesize that these attributes allow us to systematically predict behavior in a way that discriminates among multiple forms of social preferences using a simple, parsimonious deductive model. The theoretical predictions are further tested in the economics laboratory by applying them to the dictator, ultimatum, and trust games. We find that these predictions are confirmed overall for most experimental games, although the strength of empirical support varies across games. We conclude that grid-group cultural theory is a viable predictor of people’s economic behavior, then discuss potential limitations of the current approach and ways to improve it.




The funding from Air Force Office of Scientific Research Contract FA9550-07-1-0253 is gratefully acknowledged. We thank Ming Liu for research assistantship, and Min Sun Kim, participants of the Economics Science Association meetings, the Editor and three anonymous Reviewers for very helpful discussion and suggestions.


Chai, S.-K., Dorj, D. and Sherstyuk, K. (2018), "Cultural Values and Behavior in Dictator, Ultimatum, and Trust Games: An Experimental Study", Experimental Economics and Culture (Research in Experimental Economics, Vol. 20), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 89-166.



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