Experimental Economics and Culture: Volume 20

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Table of contents

(10 chapters)


Pages i-ix
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How should economists incorporate culture into their economic analysis? What empirical approaches to identifying, measuring, and analyzing the relationship between culture and economic action are most appropriate for economists? In particular, what can experimental economists learn from the methods of economic anthropologists, sociologists, and historians who study culture? We argue that while both quantitative and qualitative approaches can reveal interesting relationships between culture and economic actions/outcomes, especially in experimental research designs, qualitative methods help economists better understand people’s economic choices and the economic outcomes that emerge from those choices. This is because qualitative studies conceptualize culture as a pattern of meaning, take the relevant cultural data to be people’s thoughts and feelings, treat the market as a cultural phenomenon, and allow for novel explanations.


John and Storr (this volume) make the case that quantitative methods help establish whether culture matters, but do not tell us how culture matters. To better understand how culture matters, social scientists must use qualitative methods like interviews, in-depth case studies, and archival research. Currently, experimental economists engage qualitative methods through the coding of “chat” transcripts and informal talks with subjects while payments are arranged. Experimental economists do this because they know that it is a good idea to talk to the people they seek to understand and learn from their thought process. The goal of this chapter is to build on the insights from John and Storr about the importance of qualitative work and to provide experimental economists with some concrete ideas about qualitative methods that can improve their research.


The aim of this chapter is to: (1) model culture as a configuration of multiple values, (2) identify different culture archetypes across the globe, and (3) empirically demonstrate heterogeneity in culture archetypes within and across 52 countries. We use Schwartz values from the World Values Survey (WVS) and the archetypal analysis (AA) method to identify diverse culture archetypes within and across countries. We find significant heterogeneity in culture values archetypes within countries and homogeneity across countries, calling into question the assumption of uniform national culture values in economics and other fields. We show how the heterogeneity in culture values across the globe can be represented with a small number of distinctive archetypes. The study could be extended to include a larger set of countries, and/or cover a broader range of theoretically grounded values than those available in the Schwartz values model in the WVS. Research and practice often assume cultural homogeneity within nations and cultural diversity across nations. Our finding of different culture archetypes within countries and similar archetypes across countries demonstrates the important role of culture sharing and exchange as a source of reducing cultural conflicts between nations and enhancing creativity and innovation through interaction and integration in novel ways. We examine culture as a configuration of multiple values, and use a novel AA method to capture heterogeneity in culture values within and across countries.


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.


We study how giving depends on income and luck, and how culture and information about the determinants of others’ income affect this relationship. Our data come from an experiment conducted in two countries, the USA and Spain – each of which have different beliefs about how income inequality arises. We find that when individuals are informed about the determinants of income, there are no cross-cultural differences in giving. When uninformed, however, Americans give less than the Spanish. This difference persists even after controlling for beliefs, personal characteristics, and values.


I propose a model of behavior in social interactions where individuals maximize a three-term utility function: a conventional consumption utility term and two “social” terms that capture social preference. One social term is a taste for desert, which is maximized when the individual believes the other person is getting what they deserve. The second social term measures the target individuals’ anger or gratitude from the interaction which is determined by a value function derived from prospect theory. After introducing the model and generating a series of comparative statics results and derived predictions, I report the results of a series of quasi-field experiments on social preferences. I discuss how the model explains several paradoxes of empirical moral philosophy that are less explicable by current economic models of social preference focusing on outcomes and intentions.


We investigate the role of group identity in delegated decision-making. Our framework considers the impact of group identity (based on racial segregation in post-Apartheid South Africa) on decisions to appoint a representative in a trust game with delegated decision-making, where information on the race group of other players is either common or private knowledge. We test our framework experimentally on a sample of young South Africans who had never been exposed to experimental economics research. By exogenously matching parties according to their race group, we observe their endogenous trust and delegation behavior. Our results suggest that white players try to use information about group identity to increase profits, albeit unsuccessfully. This may help to explain distrust and coordination failures observed in real-life interactions.


Pages 265-271
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Cover of Experimental Economics and Culture
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Book series
Research in Experimental Economics
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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