Link: “Can We Infer Social Preferences from the Lab? Evidence from the Trust Game”

Nicole Baran, Paola Sapienza and Luigi Zingales got a bunch of MBA students to play the Trust Game, an economic game where partners exchange money.  From the students’ behaviour in the laboratory, they assigned them scores on their tendency to reciprocate.

They then compared these scores to MBA students’ pledges in a graduating-class donation campaign.  (They argue that this kind of behaviour amounts to a real-world form of reciprocity, paying back educational opportunities with alumni giving.)  Sure enough, those who reciprocated tit-for-tat with their partner in the Trust Game pledged and gave considerably larger gifts (31% more) to their graduating class campaigns.

Since I’ve run a few studies that use this Trust Game paradigm, it’s nice to see that there’s mounting evidence about the real-world correlates of the behaviour we measure.  (Another neat paper also showing nice links between economic game behaviour and real-world outcomes is this 2007 Journal of Politics article, showing that altruism in the Dictator Game predicts political participation, and this one I mentioned earlier on public-good games and Ugandan co-op farmers).