Date of Award

Fall 2022

Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Economics, PhD


School of Social Science, Politics, and Evaluation

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Paul J. Zak

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Jorge A. Barraza

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

George D. Montañez

Terms of Use & License Information

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Rights Information

© 2022 Lena Arai


Dyadic interactions, Dynamic time warping, Physiological synchrony, Skin conductance, Trust, Trust game

Subject Categories



Can subconscious bodily responses explain our natural tendency to be trusting and trustworthy towards a stranger? I address this question by conducting, to my knowledge, the first study of physiological synchrony (PS) between pairs of partners playing the trust game face-to-face. Participants were given the choice to send $0, $40, $80, or $120 to their partner; these choices were categorized as showing no, low, medium, and high trust, respectively. Participants were endowed with a more considerable sum of money ($120) than many other trust games (Johnson & Mislin, 2011) to encourage participants to perceive their decisions to have significant consequences, i.e., for ecological validity. Most trust game experiments study college students (Johnson & Mislin, 2011); here participants were working-age adults between the ages of 25–50 from diverse cultural backgrounds. Before making their decisions, partners were given two minutes to interact and make promises to each other about their game decisions. Few studies on the trust game allow participant pairs to communicate face-to-face before making their decisions (Ben-Ner et al., 2011; Johnson & Mislin, 2011; Lev-On et al., 2010; Zak et al. 2022). PS between participants’ skin conductance levels (SCLs) was measured during the interaction period and analyzed using two methods, intersubject correlation (ISC) and dynamic time warping (DTW). The DTW analyses revealed the no trust participants exhibited greater PS than low trust participants. DTW also indicated that high trust individuals exhibited greater PS than low and medium trust individuals, consistent with my expectation. The second mover ISC analysis showed untrustworthy participants exhibited greater PS than trustworthy participants. These findings reveal that participants playing the trust game exhibit PS and engage in no trust, high trust, and untrustworthy behavior, indicating PS, trust, and trustworthy behavior are nonlinear. This is the first study of its kind to demonstrate that individuals display PS in the trust game.



Included in

Economics Commons