On the Social and Psychological Determinants of Cooperative and Risk-Taking Behavior
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This dissertation examines some of the social and psychological factors affecting individual cooperative and risk-taking behavior. Specifically, laboratory experiments were conducted in order to shed more light on the interactive forces affecting individual contributions to public goods and individual giving in dictator game settings. Moreover, biometrics data were utilized to provide a stronger understanding of the true effect of positive and negative moods on risk preferences. First, the interaction between high- and low-income individuals in voluntary contributions mechanisms is examined by varying group composition and marginal-per-capita-return. A finite mixture model is used to split each income type into two categories. While free-riders were present among both income types, the majority of low-income individuals were classified as opportunists, who strategically increased their contributions in the presence of high-income individuals in order to benefit from their resources. On the other hand, high-income individuals were predominantly selfists, who deliberately decreased their contributions in the presence of the low-income type due mainly to self-interest and caution. Next, the perception of social norms as a first impulse or last resort is investigated in the context of individual giving in dictator games. Three variants of the dictator game are used, which differed in the way the dictator roles were assigned. By creating an environment where role assignment was random but open for interpretation, it was found that social norms compliance is not impulsively sought by individuals. Rather, adherence to social norms is only observed when the environment does not allow for an interpretation that can be used to break the prevalent norm. Finally, facial expression analysis is used to provide a more accurate assessment of the effect of positive and negative mood on risk preferences. A dilution effect issue was uncovered, which is inherent in the conventional experimental design used for tackling this question. The results served to address a controversy over the direction of the effect of mood on risk preference, showing that both positive and negative mood acted to decrease risk-aversion. Finally, the importance of the risk preference elicitation method used in this type of research was demonstrated.
Subjectfinite mixture model
varying relative returns
double hurdle model
Kassas, Bachir Mohamad (2018). On the Social and Psychological Determinants of Cooperative and Risk-Taking Behavior. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from