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Large losses from little lies: Strategic gender misrepresentation and cooperation

Drouvelis, M., Gerson, J. ORCID: 0000-0003-3297-0127, Powdthavee, N. & Riyanto, Y. E. (2023). Large losses from little lies: Strategic gender misrepresentation and cooperation. PLoS One, 18(3), article number e0282335. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0282335


This paper investigates the possibility that a small deceptive act of misrepresenting one's gender to others reduces cooperation in the Golden Balls game, a variant of a prisoner's dilemma game. Compared to treatments where either participants' true genders are revealed to each other in a pair or no information on gender is given, the treatment effects of randomly selecting people to be allowed to misrepresent their gender on defection are positive, sizeable, and statistically significant. Allowing people to misrepresent their gender reduces the average cooperation rate by approximately 10-12 percentage points. While one explanation for the significant treatment effects is that participants who chose to misrepresent their gender in the treatment where they were allowed to do so defect substantially more, the potential of being matched with someone who could be misrepresenting their gender also caused people to defect more than usual as well. On average, individuals who chose to misrepresent their gender are around 32 percentage points more likely to defect than those in the blind and true gender treatments. Further analysis reveals that a large part of the effect is driven by women who misrepresented in same-sex pairs and men who misrepresented in mixed-sex pairs. We conclude that even small short-term opportunities to misrepresent one's gender can potentially be extremely harmful to later human cooperation.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: Copyright: © 2023 Drouvelis et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Publisher Keywords: Humans; Male; Female; Cooperative Behavior; Prisoner Dilemma; Blindness; Visually Impaired Persons; Game Theory
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
SWORD Depositor:
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