Building trust: The costs and benefits of gradualism

Melis Kartal, Wieland Müller, James Tremewan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


We examine the prevalence of gradualist strategies and their effect on trust-building and economic gains in a setting with an infinite horizon, asymmetric information regarding the trustworthiness of receivers, and various levels of trust. The theoretical literature suggests that gradualist strategies mitigate asymmetric information problems and foster trust-building. However, we theoretically and experimentally show that gradualism sometimes reduces joint payoffs relative to a simple “binary” setting in which trust is an all-or-nothing decision. In a series of experiments, we vary the degree of asymmetric information as well as the economic returns to trusting behavior, and delineate circumstances under which gradualism may promote or curb efficiency.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)258-275
JournalGames and Economic Behavior
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021


  • cooperation
  • trust
  • infinitely repeated games
  • gradualism
  • game theory
  • experiments


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