Oral Presentation Session - Invited Status Awarded
Invited by: Evolutionary Anthropology Society
Primary Theme: Evolution
Secondary Theme: Exchange
Economic games, where participants are given money and asked to make choices about the money, have proliferated through the social sciences. These games are simple by design, and proponents argue they promise a measure of consequential behavior that is comparable across sites. This has led to their being used in a range of studies. However, designing, implementing, and interpreting the results of such games is challenging. First, we need carefully designed, question-driven games that are easy to implement in the field and for participants to understand. Psychologists have shown that framing effects, or ways of presenting the game, and preference construction, can impact decision making. Most important, given the proliferation of this research design, is the difficulty in interpreting data from economic games. Many of the games are overdetermined, meaning that multiple mechanisms may underlie behavior in the games, which makes the interpretation of these data questionable. These and other difficulties mean that the resulting data can complicate our understanding of a topic as often as it elucidates a phenomenon. An integrated approach that uses careful and innovative designs while appreciating the complications that may arise, all with a view towards the resulting data and their interpretation will add considerable power to this research design in anthropology. This panel focuses on the issue of using data from games in analyses, and problems of interpretation that arise. The invited discussants will integrate those papers and provide guidance on how to interpret data from these games.