Possession as the root of title. An experiment on Bourgeois Behaviour in the Hawk and Dove game


Possession as the root of title. An experiment on Bourgeois Behaviour in the Hawk and Dove game

IAST Seminar on Law and Economics

 Matteo Rizzolli is an associate Professor of Economic Policy at LUMSA University.

Abstract of his communication: "Respect for property norms has been described by theoretical biologists (Smith, 1982) as a successful evolutionary strategy -the bourgeois strategy- that minimizes the expected losses in a contest for scarce resources described by the well known Hawk and Dove (H&D) game. In this game, possession of the resource by one contendant introduces an uncorrelated asymmetry (UA) that allows coordination and thus the emergence of the property “convention”. In our lab experiment we study the role of possession with respect to the emergence of such bourgeois convention. We set up an H&D game where subjects anonymously interacts for the appropriation of a certain amount of tokens. Our treatment variation concerns the way the initial claim to the amount is established, that is to say the nature of the UA we provide. We manipulate, on one dimension, the type of information provided (the UA is either possession or color) and, in the other dimension, the process of acquisition (UA is either arbitrary or meritorious). We thus have the following treatments: a) Gift, where possession is assigned arbitrarily as manna-from-heaven; b) Treasure Trove, where possession is the result of a treasure hunt c) Labor, where possession is the result of a payment for having worked in a standard effort task d) Color 1, where subjects are arbitrarily assigned a color (red or blue) and e) Color 2 where the assigned color (red or blue) is the result of a treasure hunt. We show that 1) substantial bourgeois coordination emerges whenever the UA is based on possession but also when its attribution is meritorious; 2) Possession (both arbitrary and meritorious) induces only bourgeois coordination (and never antibourgeois) and 3) when neither merit nor possession determine the UA, then the social outcome is still efficient but very inequitable."

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