Date of Award


Degree Type

Restricted to Claremont Colleges Dissertation

Degree Name

Political Science, PhD


School of Social Science, Politics, and Evaluation

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Paul J. Zak

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Jacek Kugler

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Jorge Barraza

Terms of Use & License Information

Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

© 2020 Giti Zahedzadeh


Trust game, Meditation, Strategically deceptive behavior

Subject Categories

Economics | Neuroscience and Neurobiology | Political Science


Paper I. Trusting strangers when the stakes are high can be a risky endeavor. The fact that individuals cannot directly observe each other’s willingness to cooperate creates one of the central dilemmas in bargaining. The aim of this study is to investigate whether cheap talk is effective in high stake non-anonymous bargaining. We recruited 100 participants (Age: M = 32, SD = 6.94) and conducted high stake trust game experiments in which participants could exchange proposals and interact with each other before making decisions. The average total participant payoff was $440 (SD = $157.81). We found that in high stake trust games, cheap talk is effective in providing assurance of intent- even when formal enforcement is unavailable. Paper II. Trust is risky. The mere perception of strategically deceptive behavior that disguises intent or conveys unreliable information can lead to a disruption in cooperation. In order to investigate the nature of “cheap talk” (commitment signaling absent formal enforcement) in high stakes collaborative decision-making, we recruited 100 participants (Age; M = 32, SD = 6.94) and conducted a study in which participants could interact with each other face-to-face to make commitments that may be enacted in a trust game (TG). Each participant made a total of four TG decisions. We found that all reciprocity commitments (DM2 decisions) were kept, but 20 percent of commitments to trust (DM1 decisions) were not kept. Skin conductance level (SCL) was higher for those who reneged on their commitment (N = 26), predicting the likelihood of honoring a commitment. A positive change in SCL correlated with a rise in cortisol (CORT) - as did a decline in trust. The physiological stress response observed, coupled with cheap talk for DM1 but not DM2 behavior, suggests that some aspect of the interaction made them doubtful of the trustworthiness of the interaction partner, but not on whether to honor their commitment to reciprocate. If success of cheap talk is a matter of trust, social stress can lead to a breakdown in cooperation, where individuals may have received “bad” signals from their partner but still made promises in order to keep face while postponing defection. Paper III. Meditation has many health benefits. Then, why doesn't everyone meditate? Meditation is viewed as difficult to learn and lonely to practice. In this study, we measured changes in brain chemistry via peripheral blood draws and related these to participants’ states after 20 minutes of group meditation. Those who meditated had a reduction in the stress hormone ACTH. Further, smaller groups reduced ACTH more effectively than larger groups (Small group: 40 % decline; Large group: 27 %). The innovation of this study is that a brief meditation experience that naive participants can engage in as a group can have large potential benefits. Clinically, the results may suggest that meditation when done in small groups can have greater therapeutic potential than previously realized.