Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics

Leaders as role models and 'belief managers' in social dilemmas

Published this month in the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization (Volume 154, October 2018, Pages 321-334) is the paper, “Leaders as role models and ‘belief managers’ in social dilemmas” by Professor Simon Gächter & Dr Elke Renner.

The authors investigate the link between leadership, beliefs and pro-social behavior in social dilemmas. This link is interesting because field evidence suggests that people's behavior in domains like charitable giving, tax evasion, corporate culture and corruption is influenced by leaders (CEOs, politicians) and beliefs about others’ behavior.

Simon explains, "Our framework is a repeated experimental public goods game with and without a leader who makes a contribution to the public good before others (the followers). We find that leaders strongly shape their followers’ initial beliefs and contributions. In later rounds, followers put more weight on other followers’ past behavior than on the leader's current action. This creates a path dependency the leader can hardly correct. We discuss the implications for understanding belief effects in naturally occurring situations".

You can view the full paper (open access) online.

This work was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council [grant number ES/K002201/1] and the European Research Council [grant number ERC-AdG 295707 COOPERATION]. Access to the data files and other resources can be found through the UKDS ReShare service.


Posted on Tuesday 16th October 2018

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