Attribution and Reciprocity

Alexander Sebald*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


People infer causes and assign responsibilities for situations they find themselves in. In contradiction with classical presumptions about human behavior, it has been found that the assignment of responsibilities influences people's perceptions about the (un)kindness of others. Kindness perceptions, in turn, influence behavior. Dufwenberg and Kirchsteiger [Dufwenberg, M., Kirchsteiger, G., 2004. A theory of sequential reciprocity. Games Econ. Behav. 47 (2), 268-298] formalize this empirical finding in their ‘theory of sequential reciprocity'. This paper extends their analysis by moves of chance. More precisely, an extended framework is presented which allows for the analysis of strategic interactions of reciprocal agents in situations in which material outcomes also depend on chance. Moves of chance influence the attribution of responsibilities, people's perceptions about the (un)kindness of others and, hence, their reciprocal behavior. Furthermore, with the help of two applications it is demonstrated how this framework can be used to explain experimental findings showing that people react very differently in outcomewise-identical situations depending on the moves of chance involved.
Original languageEnglish
JournalGames and Economic Behavior
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)339-352
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Psychological games
  • Attribution theory
  • Procedural concerns
  • Reciprocity

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