SAFE Working Paper No. 422

Thoughts about the Dictator and Trust Game

Experiments are an important tool in economic research. How-ever, it is unclear to which extent the control of experiments extends to the perceptions subjects form of such experimental decision situ-ations. This paper is the first to explicitly elicit perceptions of the dictator and trust game and shows that there is substantial hetero-geneity in how subjects perceive the same game. Moreover, game perceptions depend not only on the game itself but also on the order of games (i.e., the broader experimental context in which the game is embedded) and the subject herself. This highlights that the control of experiments does not necessarily extend to game perceptions. The paper also demonstrates that perceptions are correlated with game behavior and moderate the relationship between game behavior and field behavior, thereby underscoring the importance and relevance of game perceptions for economic research.