CULTURE AND STRATEGIC BEHAVIOR: FAIRNESS VS. SOLIDARITY - AN EXPERIMENTAL STUDY
We investigate the impact of cultural background on strategic choices made by individuals in a higher education environment as well as extensions and implications for the education process.
In particular, we investigate how players react in the context of two classic strategic games, Prisoners’ Dilemma and Ultimatum, in relation to their cultural profile. Cultural profiles are determined on the basis of the individuals’ answers to a small number of questions aiming at capturing their life attitude and behavioral principles.
Prisoners’ dilemma is a strategic game initially devised by M. Flood and M. Dresher and formalized by A. Tucker in 1950. Its concept has been extensively used in economic, social and political settings to capture the balance between cooperation and competition. According to the basic version of the game, two suspects are interrogated in separate rooms. Each can either confess or keep silent. No matter what the other suspect does, each can improve her own position by confessing. However, if both confess, the outcome for both is worse than when both keep silent [DN15].
The ultimatum game is a simple strategic situation involving two players, the proposer and the responder. The proposer suggests a two-part split of this fixed amount of money. The responder must react to this “take it or leave it” offer (i.e., “ultimatum”), by accepting or rejecting the proposal. The rational solution, suggested by game theory, is for the proposer to offer the smallest possible share and for the responder to accept it [R82, B03]. However, if humans play the game, the attitude adopted deviates for what theory predicts; the most frequent outcome is based on “fairness” which seems to determine human behavior across cultures [H05].
In our experimental study, cultural profiles are determined on the basis of the following properties: (a) determination to work hard towards an objective, (b) sociability and confidence (c) sensitivity and reaction to lack of fairness (d) racial discrimination. Properties were chosen so as to accurately capture the current tendency of young people in Greece, given the rather instable social, economic and political global status.
Results indicate that players’ behavior is built on top of an intense sense of fairness, respect to diversity, sociability and diligence. Such a behavioral profile is clearly reflected to the players’ actions in the context of the Ultimatum game. However, in the Prisoners’ Dilemma game, players’ reaction seem to be tied to individual principles rather than social trust, confidence and coherence. Players seem to put their trust in sincerity and individual integrity rather than solidarity.
 [B03] T. Burnham. Games: Ultimatum. Encyclopedia of Cognitive Science, vol. 2. ed. by Lynn Nadel. New York: Nature Publishing Group, Macmillan Publishers, 2003.
 [DN15] A. Dixit, B. Nalebuff. Prisoners’ Dilemma. The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics, 2008.
 [H05] J. Henrich, J. Ensminger, R. Boyd, N. Smith Henrich, S. Bowles, K. Hill, C. Camerer, F. Gil-White, E. Fehr, M. Gurven, H. Gintis, F. Marlowe, R. McElreath, J. Patton, M. Alvard, D. Tracer, A. Barr. “Economic man” in cross-cultural perspective: Behavioral experiments in 15 small-scale societies. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, vol. 28, pp. 795–855, 2005.
 [R82] A. Rubinstein. Perfect equilibrium in a bargaining model. Econometrica, vol. 50, pp. 97–109, 1982.