March, 2011

Beneficial Betrayal Aversion

  • Jason Aimone

    Assistant Professor of Economics, Baylor University
  • Daniel Houser

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Many studies demonstrate the social benefits of cooperation. Likewise, recent studies convincingly demonstrate that betrayal aversion hinders trust and discourages cooperation. In this respect, betrayal aversion is unlike socially "beneficial" preferences including altruism, fairness and inequity aversion, all of which encourage cooperation and exchange. To our knowledge, other than the suggestion that it acts as a barrier to rash trust decisions, the benefits of betrayal aversion remain largely unexplored. Here we use laboratory experiments with human participants to show that groups including betrayal averse agents achieve higher levels of reciprocity and more profitable social exchange than groups lacking betrayal aversion. These results are the first rigorous evidence on the benefits of betrayal aversion, and may help future research investigating cultural differences in betrayal aversion as well as future research on the evolutionary roots of betrayal aversion. Further, our results extend the understanding of how intentions affect social interactions and exchange and provide an effective platform for further research on betrayal aversion and its effects on human behavior.

Find the article at Jason Aimone's website.