The impact of group membership on cooperation and norm enforcement: evidence using random assignment to real social groups
AbstractDue to incomplete contracts, efficiency of an organization depends on willingness of individuals to take non-selfish actions, such as cooperating when there is no incentive to do so or punishing inefficient actions by others. Organizations also constitute a social boundary, or group. We investigate whether this social aspect of organizations has an important benefit— fostering unselfish cooperation and norm enforcement within the group—but also whether there is a dark side, in the form of hostility between groups. Our experiment provides the first evidence free from the confounding effect of self-selection into groups. Individuals are randomly assigned to different platoons during a four-week period of officer training in the Swiss Army. We conduct choice experiments—simultaneous prisoner’s dilemma games, with and without third-party punishment—in week three. Random assignment significantly increases willingness to cooperate with fellow platoon members. Assignment does not lead to hostility, in the sense of vindictive punishment of outsiders, but does affect norm enforcement, enhancing willingness to enforce a norm of cooperation towards fellow platoon members. This suggests that the social aspect of organizations motivates efficient behavior even when ordinary incentives fail and helps to explain practices designed to foster social ties or group identification within an organization.
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Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Boston in its series Working Papers with number 06-7.
Date of creation: 2006
Date of revision:
Other versions of this item:
- Lorenz Goette & David Huffman & Stephan Meier, 2006. "The Impact of Group Membership on Cooperation and Norm Enforcement: Evidence Using Random Assignment to Real Social Groups," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(2), pages 212-216, May.
- Götte, Lorenz & Huffman, David B. & Meier, Stephan, 2006. "The Impact of Group Membership on Cooperation and Norm Enforcement: Evidence using Random Assignment to Real Social Groups," IZA Discussion Papers 2020, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
- D01 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Microeconomic Behavior: Underlying Principles
- D23 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Organizational Behavior; Transaction Costs; Property Rights
- J00 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General - - - General
This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:
- NEP-ALL-2006-04-29 (All new papers)
- NEP-CBE-2006-04-29 (Cognitive & Behavioural Economics)
- NEP-EVO-2006-04-29 (Evolutionary Economics)
- NEP-EXP-2006-04-29 (Experimental Economics)
- NEP-SOC-2006-04-29 (Social Norms & Social Capital)
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