Cristina Bicchieri

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Sascha Jane Patterson Harvie Professor of Social Thought and Comparative Ethics
Ph.D. Cambridge University
Laurea (Summa cum Laude) University of Milano
Contact Information
(215) 898-5820
Email address: 
Office Location: 
491 Cohen Hall

Professor of Philosophy and Psychology

Professor of Legal Studies, Wharton School

Director, Behavioral Ethics Lab (

Director, Philosophy, Politics, and Economics Program (

For more information, my personal page is

For recently posted papers, go to

Research Interests: 

My intellectual affinities lie at the border between philosophy, game theory and psychology. My primary research focus is on judgment and decision making with special interest in decisions about fairness, trust, and cooperation, and how expectations affect behavior. A second research focus examines the nature and evolution of social norms, especially norms of fairness and cooperation. A third, earlier research focus has been the epistemic foundations of game theory and how changes in information affects rational choices and solutions.

• In my most recent work, I have designed behavioral experiments aimed at testing several hypotheses based on the theory of social norms that I developed in my book, The Grammar of Society: the Nature and Dynamics of Social Norms (Cambridge University Press, 2006). The experimental results show that most subjects have a conditional preference for following pro-social norms. Manipulating their expectations causes major behavioral changes (i.e., from fair to unfair choices, from cooperation to defection, etc.). One of the conclusions we may draw is that there are no such things as stable dispositions or unconditional preferences (to be fair, reciprocate, cooperate, and so on). Another is that policymakers who want to induce pro-social behavior have to work on changing people's expectations about how other people behave in similar situations. These results have major consequences for our understanding of moral behavior and the construction of better normative theories, grounded on what people can in fact do.

• The nature and dynamics of social norms studies how norms may emerge and become stable, why an established norm may suddenly be abandoned, how is it possible that inefficient or unpopular norms survive, and what motivates people to obey norms. In order to answer some of these questions, I have combined evolutionary and game-theoretic tools with models of decision making drawn from cognitive and social psychology. For example, I use my theory of context-dependent preferences to build more realistic evolutionary models of the emergence of pro-social norms of fairness and reciprocity.

• My earlier (but never completely abandoned) research focus was the epistemic foundations of game theory. I recently wrote about belief-revision in games, and what kind of solutions our belief-revision model supports. In my past work I have analyzed the consequences of relaxing the 'common knowledge' assumption in several classes of games. My contributions include axiomatic models of players' theory of the game and the proof that -- in a large class of games -- a player's theory of the game is consistent only if the player's knowledge is limited. An important consequence of assuming bounded knowledge is that it allows for more intuitive solutions to familiar games such as the finitely repeated prisoner's dilemma or the chain-store paradox. I have also been interested in devising mechanical procedures (algorithms) that allow players to compute solutions for games of perfect and imperfect information. Devising such procedures is particularly important for Artificial Intelligence applications, since interacting software agents have to be programmed to play a variety of 'games'.

Selected Publications: 

Find me on PhilPapers:

Social Norms, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2011

"Norms, Preferences, and Conditional Behavior" , Politics, Philosophy and Economics 9(3), 2010

“Trustworthiness is a Social Norm, but Trusting is not ” (with Erte Xiao and Ryan Muldoon). Politics, Philosophy and Economics 10 (2), 2011

"Words or Deeds? Choosing What to Know about Others" (with Erte Xiao). Synthese (forthcoming)

"Studying the ethical implications of e-trust in the lab" (with Azi Lev-On). Ethics and Information Technology 13 (1), 2011

“The Medium or the Message? Communication Richness and Relevance in Trust games” (with Azi Lev-On and Alex Chavez), Synthese 176 (1): 2010

"When Equality Trumps Reciprocity" (with Erte Xiao). Journal of Economic Psychology 31(3), 2010

"Behaving as Expected: Public Information and Fairness Norms" (with Alex Chavez), Journal of Behavioral Decision Making 23 (2): 161-178, 2010

“An Embarrassment of Riches: Modeling Social Preferences in Ultimatum games”, (with. Jiji Zhang) in U. Maki (ed) Handbook of the Philosophy of Economics, Elsevier 2010

“Group and Dyadic Communication in Trust Games” (with Azi Lev-On and Alex Chavez). Rationality and Society, 22(1), 2010

“Do the right thing: but only if others do so” (with Erte Xiao). Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, 22: 191-208, 2009

“Rationality and Indeterminacy”, in D. Ross and H. Kinkaid (eds.) The Handbook of Philosophy of Economics, The Oxford Reference Library of Philosophy, Oxford University Press 2009: 159-188.

“The Fragility of Fairness: An Experimental Investigation on the Conditional Status of Pro-social Norms”, Nous. Philosophical Issues: Interdisciplinary Core Philosophy, 2008 “Computer-Mediated Communication and Cooperation in Social Dilemmas: An Experimental Analysis” (with Azi Lev-On), Politics, Philosophy and Economics, vol.6:139-168, 2007

"Knowing and Supposing in Games of Perfect Information" (with Horacio Arlo-Costa). Studia Logica, Vol. 86, n.3: 353-373, 2007

“Game Theory: Some Personal Reflections," Game Theory 5 Questions, V. F. Hendricks and P. G. Hansen, eds, Automatic Press, 2007.


The Grammar of Society: the Nature and Dynamics of Social Norms, Cambridge University Press, 2006 For more information see

Rationality and Coordination, Cambridge University Press, 1993; Second edition, 1997. Italian translation, Feltrinelli, 1998

The Logic of Strategy, C. Bicchieri, R. Jeffrey and B. Skyrms (eds.), Oxford University Press, 1999

The Dynamics of Norms, C. Bicchieri, R. Jeffrey and B. Skyrms (eds.), Cambridge University Press, 1997

Knowledge, Belief, and Strategic Interaction, C. Bicchieri and M.L. dalla Chiara (eds.), Cambridge University Press 1992

Ragioni per Credere, Ragioni per Fare. Convenzioni e Vincoli nel Metodo Scientifico, Feltrinelli, Milano, 1988

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