Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Powerless? Speak Up Anyway

I'm presenting a paper in class this week called "Voice matters in a dictator game" (gated link). It was published in Expermential Economics in 2007 and was written by four Japanese researchers, who analyzed a twist on the dictator game.

At first blush, the dictator game seems quite uninteresting: Player A gets $10 to start with, he decides how much of that to give to Player B (keeping the rest for himself), and then the game ends.

In the paper, the researchers asked each Player A to map out a payment schedule to Player B, based on how much Player B asked to receive. Some dictators acted selfishly (or rationally, depending on how you look at it) and kept all the money for themselves, no matter what the request. But on average, the Player B's who asked for 50% of the money received more than those who asked for 10% of the money, who in turn did better than those who didn't voice any request. Additionally, the dictators usually punished their counterparts if they asked for more than half of the money.

If the conclusions of the paper can be extended to broader life situations, we learn that perhaps it's wise to speak up and ask for your fair share, even when you hold no power in the negotiation.


Josh Hattersley said...

Of course, extrapolating the the dictator game behavior to an actual dictatorship is liable to get you shot, so it may not be the most useful exercise outside of economics ;-)