Humans expect generosity


Branas-Garza, P., Rodriguez-Lara, I. and Sanchez, A. 2017. Humans expect generosity. Scientific Reports. 7.
TitleHumans expect generosity
AuthorsBranas-Garza, P., Rodriguez-Lara, I. and Sanchez, A.

Mechanisms supporting human ultra-cooperativeness are very much subject to debate. One psychological feature likely to be relevant is the formation of expectations, particularly about receiving cooperative or generous behavior from others. Without such expectations, social life will be seriously impeded and, in turn, expectations leading to satisfactory interactions can become norms and institutionalize cooperation. In this paper, we assess people’s expectations of generosity in a series of controlled experiments using the dictator game. Despite differences in respective roles, involvement in the game, degree of social distance or variation of stakes, the results are conclusive: subjects seldom predict that dictators will behave selfishly (by choosing the Nash equilibrium action, namely giving nothing). The majority of subjects expect that dictators will choose the equal split. This implies that generous behavior is not only observed in the lab, but also expected by subjects. In addition, expectations are accurate, matching closely the donations observed and showing that as a society we have a good grasp of how we interact. Finally, correlation between expectations and actual behavior suggests that expectations can be an important ingredient of generous or cooperative behavior.

PublisherNature Publishing Group
JournalScientific Reports
Publication dates
Online14 Feb 2017
Print31 Mar 2017
Publication process dates
Deposited16 Jan 2017
Accepted10 Jan 2017
Output statusPublished
Publisher's version
Copyright Statement

© The Author(s) 2017. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in the credit line; if the material is not included under the Creative Commons license, users will need to obtain permission from the license holder to reproduce the material. To view a copy of this license, visit

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