The Role of Interpersonal Traits in Social Decision Making: Exploring Sources of Behavioral Heterogeneity in Economic Games

Kun Zhao, Luke D. Smillie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

121 Citations (Scopus)


Economic games are well-established experimental paradigms for modeling social decision making. A large body of literature has pointed to the heterogeneity of behavior within many of these games, which might be partly explained by broad interpersonal trait dispositions. Using the Big Five and HEXACO (Honesty-Humility, Emotionality, eXtraversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Openness to Experience) personality frameworks, we review the role of personality in two main classes of economic games: social dilemmas and bargaining games. This reveals an emerging role for Big Five agreeableness in promoting cooperative, egalitarian, and altruistic behaviors across several games, consistent with its core characteristic of maintaining harmonious interpersonal relations. The role for extraversion is less clear, which may reflect the divergent effects of its underlying agentic and affiliative motivational components. In addition, HEXACO honesty-humility and agreeableness may capture distinct aspects of prosocial behavior outside the bounds of the Five-Factor Model. Important considerations and directions for future studies are discussed within the emerging personality–economics interface.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)277-302
Number of pages26
JournalPersonality and Social Psychology Review
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • agreeableness
  • bargaining games
  • economic games
  • extraversion
  • honesty-humility
  • social dilemmas

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