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Confusion and Reinforcement Learning in Experimental Public Goods Games

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Abstract

We use a limited information environment to mimic the state of confusion in an experimental, repeated public goods game. The results show that reinforcement learning leads to dynamics similar to those observed in standard public goods games. However, closer inspection shows that individual decay of contributions in standard public goods games cannot be fully explained by reinforcement learning. According to our estimates, learning only accounts for 41 percent of the decay in contributions in standard public goods games. The contribution dynamics of subjects, who are identified as conditional cooperators, differ strongly from the learning dynamics, while a learning model estimated from the limited information treatment tracks behavior for subjects, who cannot be classified as conditional cooperators, reasonably well.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by The Austrian Center for Labor Economics and the Analysis of the Welfare State, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria in its series NRN working papers with number 2009-22.

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Length: 33 pages
Date of creation: Oct 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:jku:nrnwps:2009_22

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Keywords: public goods experiments; learning; limited information; confusion; conditional cooperation;

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References

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  1. Claudia Keser & Frans A.A.M. van Winden, 2000. "Conditional Cooperation and Voluntary Contributions to Public Goods," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 00-011/1, Tinbergen Institute.
  2. Andereoni, J., 1988. "Why Free Ride? Strategies And Learning In Public Goods Experiments," Working papers, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems 375, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
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  5. Laurent Muller & Martin Sefton & Richard Steinberg & Lise Vesterlund, 2005. "Strategic Behavior and Learning in Repeated Voluntary-Contribution Experiments," Discussion Papers, The Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics, School of Economics, University of Nottingham 2005-13, The Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics, School of Economics, University of Nottingham.
  6. Steven D. Levitt & John A. List, 2007. "What Do Laboratory Experiments Measuring Social Preferences Reveal About the Real World?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 21(2), pages 153-174, Spring.
  7. Keser, Claudia & van Winden, Frans, 2000. " Conditional Cooperation and Voluntary Contributions to Public Goods," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 102(1), pages 23-39, March.
  8. R. Cookson, 2000. "Framing Effects in Public Goods Experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer, Springer, vol. 3(1), pages 55-79, June.
  9. Mookherjee Dilip & Sopher Barry, 1994. "Learning Behavior in an Experimental Matching Pennies Game," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 7(1), pages 62-91, July.
  10. Urs Fischbacher & Simon Gachter, 2010. "Social Preferences, Beliefs, and the Dynamics of Free Riding in Public Goods Experiments," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 100(1), pages 541-56, March.
  11. Sarin, Rajiv & Vahid, Farshid, 1999. "Payoff Assessments without Probabilities: A Simple Dynamic Model of Choice," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 28(2), pages 294-309, August.
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  15. Andreoni, James, 1995. "Cooperation in Public-Goods Experiments: Kindness or Confusion?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 85(4), pages 891-904, September.
  16. Colin Camerer & Teck-Hua Ho, 1999. "Experience-weighted Attraction Learning in Normal Form Games," Econometrica, Econometric Society, Econometric Society, vol. 67(4), pages 827-874, July.
  17. Colin F. Camerer & Ernst Fehr, . "Measuring Social Norms and Preferences using Experimental Games: A Guide for Social Scientists," IEW - Working Papers 097, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  18. Chen, Yan & Khoroshilov, Yuri, 2003. "Learning under limited information," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 44(1), pages 1-25, July.
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Cited by:
  1. Toke Reinholt Fosgaard & Lars Gårn Hansen & Erik Wengström, 2011. "Framing and Misperceptions in a Public Good Experiment," IFRO Working Paper 2011/11, University of Copenhagen, Department of Food and Resource Economics, revised Oct 2012.
  2. Urs Fischbacher & Simon Gaechter, 2008. "Heterogeneous Social Preferences And The Dynamics Of Free Riding In Public Good Experiments," Discussion Papers, The Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics, School of Economics, University of Nottingham 2008-07, The Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics, School of Economics, University of Nottingham.
  3. Urs Fischbacher & Simon Gaechter, 2009. "Social Preferences, Beliefs, and the Dynamics of Free Riding in Public Good Experiments," Discussion Papers, The Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics, School of Economics, University of Nottingham 2009-04, The Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics, School of Economics, University of Nottingham.

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