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Fair is Fair: social Preferences and reciprocity in international Politics

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 August 2015

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Behavioral economics has shown that people often diverge from classical assumptions about self-interested behavior: they have social preferences and are concerned about issues of fairness and reciprocity. Social psychologists show that these preferences vary across actors, with some displaying more prosocial value orientations than others. Integrating a laboratory bargaining experiment with original archival research on Anglo-French and Franco-German diplomacy during the interwar period, the authors show how fairness and reciprocity matter in social interactions. That prosocials do not exploit their bargaining leverage to the degree that proselfs do helps explain why some pairs of actors are better able to avoid bargaining failure than others. In the face of consistent egoism on the part of negotiating partners, however, prosocials engage in negative reciprocity and adopt the same behaviors as proselfs.

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Copyright © Trustees of Princeton University 2015 

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