I had participated in an experiment. We were told that we are matched to pairs. Only one person in each pair would make a decision. According to this decision, the profits were split. If the total gain is X, then it relies completely on player A how this gain is divided. The other player remains inactive.
I was to make the decision. I thought I should play fair instead of trying to maximize my profit. The first round had passed when I realised how the game was set up.
We were required to fill in our “randomly” chosen role. The game consisted of multiple rounds with variations in each round, but there was only one position to fill in our role. That means that in every round, we had the same role. So, if it was true that our decisions affected others, then half of the people would be inactive throughout the experiment. It is a waste, don’t you think? So, we can assume that everyone had role A and there was no person who was affected by our decision (strictly speaking, this is not the only possible conclusion (finding out about fake rules does not determine the correct ones) but for all practical purposes, it is good enough). They tricked us to be sure that we make our choices while we know we might hurt someone else.
After the first round, I had still to take some decisions. I thought about it. Should I, now, act selfishly, since I can assume that no other person is hurt by my decision? Well, then, I would provide misleading evidence to the researchers who were conducting the experiment, in contrast to my beliefs. Should I, then, act like I didn’t see what they were doing? I proceeded it in this way, but I am now convinced that was not my best strategy.
They also provided some space where we could explain our reasoning. I still don’t know whether I should try to maximize my profit. Nevertheless, I should have pointed out that I find out about the set up of the experiment and then make them aware of my conscious choice, either by accepting a lower payoff and thus, making a bold statement, or by taking the extra money and then explaining that I didn’t think that it was necessary to buy the credibility of my “vote”.
Moral of the story: Full disclosure. How did I forget about it?