How Important is Reputation?



The Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology posed this question using standard game theory – strategic decision making – in a recent social experiment. In the experiment, two people interact, each with the option of competing or cooperating. If both cooperate, both win; if one competes while the other cooperates, the selfish person wins even bigger.

Participants were provided information regarding the other person’s reputation as either selfish or cooperative. As expected, if a person expected to interact with someone with a reputation for selfishness, he or she would behave selfishly, but if a person expected to interact with someone with a reputation for cooperation, he or she would tend to cooperate.

The real kicker, however, concerned a particular wrinkle. In some cases, researchers would provide participants with both data regarding the other person’s performance and description of that person’s reputation. Participants invariably trusted the reputation rather than the data.

What does this mean? That reputation trumps fact in some cases. That’s why self-awareness and reputation management are essential to the success of our daily interactions. To learn more about how reputation can affect every aspect of your work relationships, check out our ebook Who Are You?