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Strategic behavior and learning in repeated voluntary contribution experiments

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Author Info

  • Muller, Laurent
  • Sefton, Martin
  • Steinberg, Richard
  • Vesterlund, Lise

Abstract

We present an experiment investigating why contributions decline in repeated public goods games. To distinguish between alternative explanations for this decrease we use a strategy method to elicit strategies in a simple two-stage public goods game. By repeating the game with new opponents participants have the opportunity to learn across games. We find that the behavior elicited using the strategy method is consistent with that of a direct response version of the game. Contributions in stage two are around 45% lower than contributions in stage one. While this pattern of declining contributions is robust across repetitions of the two-stage game, the participants’ strategies are not. Changes in individual strategies across successive repetitions sometimes increase and sometimes decrease stage-one contributions, on average contributions decrease by 7% per game. Thus experience with the game leads to an erratic and less pronounced deterioration in contributions, compared with the systematic and more marked deterioration generated by submitted strategies.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization.

Volume (Year): 67 (2008)
Issue (Month): 3-4 (September)
Pages: 782-793

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Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:67:y:2008:i:3-4:p:782-793

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Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/jebo

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  1. Urs Fischbacher & Simon Gächter, 2005. "Heterogeneous social preferences and the dynamics of free riding in public goods," IEW - Working Papers 261, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  2. Daniel Houser & Robert Kurzban, 2002. "Revisiting Kindness and Confusion in Public Goods Experiments," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(4), pages 1062-1069, September.
  3. Fischbacher, Urs & Gachter, Simon & Fehr, Ernst, 2001. "Are people conditionally cooperative? Evidence from a public goods experiment," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 71(3), pages 397-404, June.
  4. Jordi Brandts & Gary Charness, 2000. "Hot vs. Cold: Sequential Responses and Preference Stability in Experimental Games," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 2(3), pages 227-238, March.
  5. Andreoni, J., 1993. "Cooperation in Public Goods Experiments: Kindness or Confusion?," Working papers 9309, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
  6. Charness, Gary B & Brandts, Jordi, 1998. "Hot vs. Cold: Sequential Responses and Preference Stability in Experimental Games," University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series qt4kx7d5pv, Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara.
  7. Croson, Rachel T. A., 1996. "Partners and strangers revisited," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 53(1), pages 25-32, October.
  8. R. M. Isaac & J. M. Walker, 2010. "Group size effects in public goods provision: The voluntary contribution mechanism," Levine's Working Paper Archive 310, David K. Levine.
  9. Claudia Keser, 2000. "Strategically Planned Behavior in Public Good Experiments," CIRANO Working Papers 2000s-35, CIRANO.
  10. Andreoni, James, 1988. "Why free ride? : Strategies and learning in public goods experiments," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 37(3), pages 291-304, December.
  11. Jordi Brandts & Gary Charness, 2003. "Truth or Consequences: An Experiment," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 49(1), pages 116-130, January.
  12. Guth, Werner & Huck, Steffen & Muller, Wieland, 2001. "The Relevance of Equal Splits in Ultimatum Games," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 37(1), pages 161-169, October.
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