Beliefs and actions in the trust game: Creating instrumental variables to estimate the causal effect

Miguel Costa-Gomes, Steffen Huck, Georg Weizsacker

Research output: Working paper

Abstract / Description of output

In many economic contexts, an elusive variable of interest is the agent’s belief about relevant events, e.g. about other agents’ behavior. A growing number of surveys and experiments ask participants to state beliefs explicitly but little is known about the causal relation between beliefs and other behavioral variables.This paper discusses the possibility of creating exogenous instrumental variables for belief statements, by informing the agent about exogenous manipulations of the relevant events. We conduct trust game experiments where the amount sent back by the second player (trustee) is exogenously varied. The procedure allows detecting causal links from beliefs to actions under plausible assumptions. The IV-estimated effect is significant, confirming the causal role of beliefs. It is only slightly and insignificantly smaller than in estimations without instrumentation, consistent with a mild effect of social norms or other omitted variables.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationBerlin
PublisherWissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung gGmbH
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2012

Publication series

NameWZB Discussion Paper SP II 2012–302

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Social capital
  • Trust game
  • Instrumental variables
  • Belief elicitation

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