Experimental Economics

, Volume 11, Issue 4, pp 370–389 | Cite as

Incremental approaches to establishing trust

  • Robert Kurzban
  • Mary L. RigdonEmail author
  • Bart J. Wilson


We investigate cooperation using an incremental investment game in which the first-mover has the ability to make small, but increasing incremental investments in their counterpart. Our experiment is designed to test whether establishing trust in small increments is more effective than alternatives, including a one-shot investment game, a decrease only condition where the amount the first-mover sends to the second-mover must be less than the amount previously sent, and an unrestricted condition where the first-mover is not restricted by the amount previously sent. Although results were mixed, broadly, iteration affords greater cooperation than one-shot games and, when given the choice, participants seem to prefer to build trust gradually. Implications for institutional design are discussed.


Investment game Trust Reciprocity Bargaining Cooperation Experimental economics 


C72 C91 


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Copyright information

© Economic Science Association 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert Kurzban
    • 1
  • Mary L. Rigdon
    • 2
    Email author
  • Bart J. Wilson
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA
  2. 2.Research Center for Group Dynamics, Institute for Social ResearchThe University of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  3. 3.Interdisciplinary Center for Economic ScienceGeorge Mason UniversityFairfaxUSA

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