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Does Honesty Facilitate Cooperation?

Political Economy
Ethics
Lab Experiments
Political Cultures
Aron Szekely
Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies
Aron Szekely
Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies

Abstract

Public good games are commonly used to model cooperative behavior (Fehr & Gachter, 2002). Public goods games, however, may not be good models for all real-world cooperation. In particular, they miss out on motives of honesty that could be an important feature in many real-world behaviors. Consider that when you pay your taxes, your decision to report what you earned or not is a also a matter of honesty; or when you call in sick to work knowing that you are not is a matter of dishonesty; or when you tell your colleague that ‘this work will take me 2 months’ knowing that it will only take a week. All of these (un)cooperative acts have an element of honesty and dishonesty to them. Understanding the links between cooperation and honesty - and between norms sustaining them - can improve our understanding of how to increase cooperation, and costless, or very cheap, techniques known to increase honesty can then be used to increase cooperation instead of costly and harmful punishment. We will present an experiment designed to determine the role that honesty plays in cooperation. The same experiment has been conducted in Romania (n=316) and Italy (n=420) to check if norms of honesty and cooperation vary across societies.