Cooperation under oath: A case for context-dependent preferences

João Vaz, Jason Shogren

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The oath has been shown to improve behavior toward social objectives. Existing research suggests that the oath promotes pro-social behavior without affecting an underlying preference for cooperation. We examine whether an oath impacts behavior in the simultaneous and sequential versions of the prisoners’ dilemma and explore whether that impact could be attributed to a change of preference for the cooperative outcome. We observe an overwhelming transfer of reported strategies by oath-takers moving second from selfish (always defect) to conditionally cooperative (cooperate against cooperation by first movers). Our results lend support to the hypothesis that preferences depend on the oath-taking context.

Original languageEnglish
Article number111229
JournalEconomics Letters
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2023


  • Context-dependent preferences
  • Cooperation
  • Oath
  • Social dilemma


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