Internet and Network Economics

Volume 7090 of the series Lecture Notes in Computer Science pp 242-253

Behavioral Conflict and Fairness in Social Networks

  • Stephen JuddAffiliated withComputer and Information Science, University of Pennsylvania
  • , Michael KearnsAffiliated withComputer and Information Science, University of Pennsylvania
  • , Yevgeniy VorobeychikAffiliated withSandia National Laboratories

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We report on a series of behavioral experiments in social networks in which human subjects continuously choose to play either a dominant role (called a King) or a submissive one (called a Pawn). Kings receive a higher payoff rate, but only if all their network neighbors are Pawns, and thus the maximum social welfare states correspond to maximum independent sets. We document that fairness is of vital importance in driving interactions between players. First, we find that payoff disparities between network neighbors gives rise to conflict, and the specifics depend on the network topology. However, allowing Kings to offer “tips” or side payments to their neighbors substantially reduces conflict, and consistently increases social welfare. Finally, we observe that tip reductions lead to increased conflict. We describe these and a broad set of related findings.