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Intertemporal bargaining predicts moral behavior, even in anonymous, one-shot economic games1

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 February 2013

George Ainslie*
School of Economics, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch 7701, South Africa; and Department of Veteran Affairs, 151 VA Medical Center, Coatesville, PA 19320. George.Ainslie@va.gov


To the extent that acting fairly is in an individual's long-term interest, short-term impulses to cheat present a self-control problem. The only effective solution is to interpret the problem as a variant of repeated prisoner's dilemma, with each choice as a test case predicting future choices. Moral choice appears to be the product of a contract because it comes from self-enforcing intertemporal cooperation.

Open Peer Commentary
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2013

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