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Individuals' Voting Choice and Cooperation in Repeated Social Dilemma Games

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  • Annamaria Nese

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  • Patrizia Sbriglia

    ()

Abstract

In this paper we explore the relationship between the individual’s preference for cooperation and the establishment of cooperative norms. Our aim is to provide an experimental test of the evolutionary hypothesis (see Carpenter, 2004, Fehr and Gachter 2002; Gintis 2000; Boyd, Bowles, Gintis and Richerson 2003; Bowles and Gintis 2004), according to which individuals are prepared to punish defectors in experimental social dilemma games because they want to enforce a social (“altruistic”) norm which may conduce to increasing their future payoffs, as in the case of sanctions against free riding behaviour. According to this line of research , the high levels of cooperation we observe in our societies can, therefore, be strictly related to the establishment of social norms which are able to enforce and maintain cooperation in the long run. We study the results of two experiments in which the individuals decided both whether to participate in a common project and the institutional rule according to which the profits of the project had to be shared among each of the participants in the group. They could choose between 1) a regime where gains were shared equally, regardless of individuals’ contributions and without sanctions and rewards (System A); 2) a regime where individuals were paid according to their marginal contribution, but the profits of the investments were lower than in the other contexts (System B); finally 3) a regime in which gains were shared equally (as in System A), but individuals were allowed to punish (and\or reward) free riding (cooperative) behaviours as in Sefton, Shupp and Walker (2007). Before the experiments took place, our subjects were required to fill a questionnaire composed of four sections, where their attitude to cooperate and their opinions on civic values and free riding behaviours were thoroughly explored. We then monitored the behaviour of potential free riders and cooperators in the game and their institutional choices. Our results partly contradict the evolutionary hypothesis in as much as System A and B received the largest shares of votes in almost all rounds and they were voted by free riders and cooperators alike. Thus, most individuals do not like sanctions (incentives) against defectors and free riders (cooperators), and their institutional preferences do not seem to be related to their willingness to cooperate. The inspection of individual data, however, reveals some interesting points. In fact, we can assert that System C was mostly chosen by cooperative individuals in response to observed free riding behaviour. Furthermore, when a cooperative individual chose C, she would tend to punish free riders and reward cooperators. Our conclusion is that, as far as the institutional choices are concerned, beside the profit motivations underlined in the evolutionary hypothesis, the ethical and cultural unobserved individual preferences play an important role. There is a number of individuals (limited in our experiments, ranging between 15 and 30 per cent of the entire population) who see cooperation as the “right” thing to do, and therefore are prepared to implement institutional rules that may favour this collective outcome. Most people in our experiments did not share these same values.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by University of Siena in its series Labsi Experimental Economics Laboratory University of Siena with number 025.

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Date of creation: Feb 2009
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Handle: RePEc:usi:labsit:025

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Keywords: public good games; experiments; voting choices;

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  1. Marco Faillo & Stefania Ottone & Lorenzo Sacconi, 2008. "Compliance by believing: an experimental exploration on social norms and impartial agreements," Department of Economics Working Papers 0810, Department of Economics, University of Trento, Italia.
  2. Jeffrey Carpenter & Peter Matthews & Okomboli Ong’ong’a, 2004. "Why Punish? Social reciprocity and the enforcement of prosocial norms," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 14(4), pages 407-429, October.
  3. Martin Sefton & Robert Shupp & James M. Walker, 2007. "The Effect Of Rewards And Sanctions In Provision Of Public Goods," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 45(4), pages 671-690, October.
  4. Sandmo, Agnar, 2005. "The Theory of Tax Evasion: A Retrospective View," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 58(4), pages 643-63, December.
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  7. Marco Casari & Luigi Luini, 2005. "Group Cooperation Under Alternative Peer Punishment Technologies: An Experiment," Labsi Experimental Economics Laboratory University of Siena 002, University of Siena.
  8. Jeremy Clark, 1998. "Fairness in Public Good Provision: An Investigation of Preferences for Equality and Proportionality," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 31(3), pages 708-729, August.
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  10. Allingham, Michael G. & Sandmo, Agnar, 1972. "Income tax evasion: a theoretical analysis," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 1(3-4), pages 323-338, November.
  11. Anabela Botelho & Glenn W. Harrison & Lígia Pinto & Elisabet E. Rutstrom, 2005. "Social norms and social choice," NIMA Working Papers 30, Núcleo de Investigação em Microeconomia Aplicada (NIMA), Universidade do Minho.
  12. Roberto Burlando & Francesco Guala, 2005. "Heterogeneous Agents in Public Goods Experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 8(1), pages 35-54, April.
  13. Annamaria Nese, 2008. "Il problema dell'evasione fiscale: opinioni e comportamenti," STUDI ECONOMICI, FrancoAngeli Editore, vol. 2008(94), pages 95-119.
  14. Slemrod, Joel, 1998. "On Voluntary Compliance, Voluntary Taxes, and Social Capital," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 51(n. 3), pages 485-91, September.
  15. Haigner, Stefan & Kocher, Martin & Sutter, Matthias, 2006. "Choosing the Stick or the Carrot? Endogenous Institutional Choice in Social Dilemma Situations," CEPR Discussion Papers 5497, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  16. Rowthorn, Robert E. & Guzmán, Ricardo Andrés & Rodríguez-Sickert, Carlos, 2009. "Theories of the evolution of cooperative behaviour: A critical survey plus some new results," MPRA Paper 12574, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  17. Torgler, Benno, 2003. "To evade taxes or not to evade: that is the question," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 32(3), pages 283-302, July.
  18. Arhan Ertan & Talbot Page & Louis Putterman, 2005. "Can Endogenously Chosen Institutions Mitigate the Free-Rider Problem and Reduce Perverse Punishment?," Working Papers 2005-13, Brown University, Department of Economics.
  19. Bordignon, Massimo, 1993. "A fairness approach to income tax evasion," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 52(3), pages 345-362, October.
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