Punishment despite Reasonable Doubt – A Public Goods Experiment with Uncertainty over Contributions
AbstractUnder a great variety of legally relevant circumstances, people have to decide whether or not to cooperate, when they face an incentive to defect. The law sometimes provides people with sanctioning mechanisms to enforce pro-social behavior. Experimental evidence on voluntary public good provision shows that the option to punish others substantially improves cooperation, even if punishment is costly. However, these studies focus on situations where there is no uncertainty about others' behavior. We investigate punishment in a world with “reasonable doubt” about others' contributions. Interestingly, people reveal a high willingness to punish even if their information about cooperation rates is inaccurate, or noisy. If there is some non-trivial degree of noise, unishment (1) cannot maintain high contributions and (2) reduces welfare even below the level of a setting without punishment. Our findings suggest that sufficient information accuracy about others' behavior is crucial for he efficiency of sanction mechanisms. If a situation is characterized by low information accuracy, precluding sanctions can be optimal.
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Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods in its series Working Paper Series of the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods with number 2010_11.
Date of creation: Apr 2010
Date of revision:
Public Goods; Experimental Law & Economics; Enforcement under Uncertainty;
Find related papers by JEL classification:
- H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods
- K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law
- C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
- D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics; Underlying Principles
- K14 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law - - - Criminal Law
This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:
- NEP-ALL-2010-04-17 (All new papers)
- NEP-EXP-2010-04-17 (Experimental Economics)
- NEP-PBE-2010-04-17 (Public Economics)
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