Applying Agent-based Simulation Software and Sociological Theory to Decision Making


Conducting experiments in our laboratory as well as in the field we test our behavioral models about the impact of culture on cooperation and conflict, the importance of cultural boundaries and cultural change.

Experimental economics has demonstrated that most people don't behave as self-interested maximizers, solely interested in their own material gain. Instead, experimental evidence suggests that they have social preferences - such as altruism or a desire for reciprocity - that take the well-being of others into account when making decisions. The question underlying our game-theoretic experiments is to explore how general cultural constructs - such as grid/group or independence/interdependence - shape these social preferences, making them predictable based on cultural attributes. Therefore, the first line of our lab experiments combines a pretest-survey on these attributes with variants of well-known experimental games, such as the dictator, ultimatum and trust game.

In a second line of experiments, we are interested in how belonging to different groups influences the behavior in experimental games. Therefore, group membership is either experimentally induced or based on real ascriptive characteristics. Being informed about the group membership of the others, players than interact in experimental games.The underlying question of cooperation and conflict among members of different ascriptive groups is highly relevant to understand ethnic conflict and are also tackled in our field experiments.

Lastly, to test the coherence model on the individual level, experiments on cultural change are conducted: To test the model's prediction that people adapt their preferences with regards to others (esp. degree of altruism) to make their past behavior - cooperation or conflict - seem rational in retrospect, we measure these attitudes before and after participation in experimental games.


Faculty: Sun-Ki Chai, Min-Sun Kim, Katerina Sherstyuk

Graduate Students: Olga Bogach, Caecilia Castillo, Dolgosuren Dorj, Quincy Edwards, Debbie Gundaya

External collaborators: Ming Liu


A list of current working papers can be found here.