Cheating in markets: A methodological exploration

Abstract

In the 1970s, experimental economics split from social psychology by embracing rational choice and equilibrium methods. Behavioral economics has recently narrowed the divide, to the dismay of some. The present paper argues that evolutionary dynamics provides a framework which unifies the best features of social psychology with equilibrium and rational choice. Ongoing research in cheating in markets illustrates the main points. A new equilibrium model provides distinctive testable predictions under three regimes: autarky, frictionless free trade, and anonymous foreign trade with opportunities to cheat. The predictions organize quite well the data collected so far. Later phases of the project will allow trader networks to evolve, altering the market institution and perhaps affecting preferences. Thus the ma jor forces recognized by social psychologists can be combined with a rationality and equilibrium to study how markets respond to the risk of cheating.

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2009-01-28

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Daniel Friedman
Johns Hopkins University

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