IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this article

Social Preferences, Beliefs, and the Dynamics of Free Riding in Public Goods Experiments

Listed author(s):
  • Urs Fischbacher
  • Simon Gachter

One lingering puzzle is why voluntary contributions to public goods decline over time in experimental and real-world settings. We show that the decline of cooperation is driven by individual preferences for imperfect conditional cooperation. Many people's desire to contribute less than others, rather than changing beliefs of what others will contribute over time or people's heterogeneity in preferences makes voluntary cooperation fragile. Universal free riding thus eventually emerges, despite the fact that most people are not selfish. (D12, D 83, H41, Z13)

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/aer.100.1.541
Download Restriction: no

File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/aer/data/mar2010/20060029_data.zip
Download Restriction: no

File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/aer/data/mar2010/20060029_app.pdf
Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to AEA members and institutional subscribers.

Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal American Economic Review.

Volume (Year): 100 (2010)
Issue (Month): 1 (March)
Pages: 541-556

as
in new window

Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:100:y:2010:i:1:p:541-56
Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.100.1.541
Contact details of provider: Web page: https://www.aeaweb.org/aer/
Email:


More information through EDIRC

Order Information: Web: https://www.aeaweb.org/subscribe.html

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as
in new window


  1. R. Cookson, 2000. "Framing Effects in Public Goods Experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 3(1), pages 55-79, June.
  2. Selten, Reinhard & Stoecker, Rolf, 1986. "End behavior in sequences of finite Prisoner's Dilemma supergames A learning theory approach," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 7(1), pages 47-70, March.
  3. Burlando, Roberto & Hey, John D., 1997. "Do Anglo-Saxons free-ride more?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 64(1), pages 41-60, April.
  4. Urs Fischbacher & Simon G�chter, 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.
  5. Ambrus, Attila & Pathak, Parag A., 2011. "Cooperation over finite horizons: A theory and experiments," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(7-8), pages 500-512, August.
  6. Botelho, Anabela & Harrison, Glenn W. & Pinto, Lígia M. Costa & Rutström, Elisabet E., 2009. "Testing static game theory with dynamic experiments: A case study of public goods," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 67(1), pages 253-265.3, September.
  7. Isaac, R Mark & Walker, James M, 1988. "Communication and Free-Riding Behavior: The Voluntary Contribution Mechanism," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 26(4), pages 585-608, October.
  8. 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.
  9. Simon Gachter & Ernst Fehr, 2000. "Cooperation and Punishment in Public Goods Experiments," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(4), pages 980-994, September.
  10. David Masclet & Charles Noussair & Steven Tucker & Marie-Claire Villeval, 2003. "Monetary and Nonmonetary Punishment in the Voluntary Contributions Mechanism," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(1), pages 366-380, March.
  11. Neugebauer, Tibor & Perote, Javier & Schmidt, Ulrich & Loos, Malte, 2009. "Selfish-biased conditional cooperation: On the decline of contributions in repeated public goods experiments," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 30(1), pages 52-60, February.
  12. Cooper, Russell & DeJong, Douglas V. & Forsythe, Robert & Ross, Thomas W., 1996. "Cooperation without Reputation: Experimental Evidence from Prisoner's Dilemma Games," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 12(2), pages 187-218, February.
  13. Fischbacher, Urs & Gächter, Simon & Quercia, Simone, 2012. "The behavioral validity of the strategy method in public good experiments," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 33(4), pages 897-913.
  14. Ralph-C Bayer & Elke Renner & Rupert Sausgruber, 2009. "Confusion and Reinforcement Learning in Experimental Public Good Games," Discussion Papers 2009-18, The Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics, School of Economics, University of Nottingham.
  15. Bracht, Juergen & Figuieres, Charles & Ratto, Marisa, 2008. "Relative performance of two simple incentive mechanisms in a public goods experiment," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(1-2), pages 54-90, February.
  16. Carpenter, Jeffrey P., 2007. "Punishing free-riders: How group size affects mutual monitoring and the provision of public goods," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 60(1), pages 31-51, July.
  17. Josef Falkinger, 2000. "A Simple Mechanism for the Efficient Provision of Public Goods: Experimental Evidence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(1), pages 247-264, March.
  18. Weber, Roberto A., 2003. "'Learning' with no feedback in a competitive guessing game," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 44(1), pages 134-144, July.
  19. Nikos Nikiforakis & Hans-Theo Normann, 2008. "A comparative statics analysis of punishment in public-good experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 11(4), pages 358-369, December.
  20. Weimann, Joachim, 1994. "Individual behaviour in a free riding experiment," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(2), pages 185-200, June.
  21. Jeannette Brosig & Axel Ockenfels & Joachim Weimann, 2002. "The Effect of Communication Media on Cooperation," Papers on Strategic Interaction 2002-17, Max Planck Institute of Economics, Strategic Interaction Group.
  22. Rachel Croson & Jen Shang, 2008. "The impact of downward social information on contribution decisions," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 11(3), pages 221-233, September.
  23. Andreoni, James, 1995. "Cooperation in Public-Goods Experiments: Kindness or Confusion?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(4), pages 891-904, September.
  24. Muller, Laurent & Sefton, Martin & Steinberg, Richard & Vesterlund, Lise, 2008. "Strategic behavior and learning in repeated voluntary contribution experiments," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 67(3-4), pages 782-793, September.
  25. Guttman, Joel M., 1986. "Matching behavior and collective action : Some experimental evidence," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 7(2), pages 171-198, June.
  26. Keser, Claudia & van Winden, Frans, 2000. " Conditional Cooperation and Voluntary Contributions to Public Goods," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 102(1), pages 23-39, March.
  27. Kocher, Martin G. & Cherry, Todd & Kroll, Stephan & Netzer, Robert J. & Sutter, Matthias, 2008. "Conditional cooperation on three continents," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 101(3), pages 175-178, December.
  28. Bruno S. Frey & Stephan Meier, 2004. "Social Comparisons and Pro-social Behavior: Testing "Conditional Cooperation" in a Field Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(5), pages 1717-1722, December.
  29. Ockenfels, Axel & Weimann, Joachim, 1999. "Types and patterns: an experimental East-West-German comparison of cooperation and solidarity," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 71(2), pages 275-287, February.
  30. Andreoni, James A & Miller, John H, 1993. "Rational Cooperation in the Finitely Repeated Prisoner's Dilemma: Experimental Evidence," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 103(418), pages 570-585, May.
  31. Park, Eun-Soo, 2000. "Warm-glow versus cold-prickle: a further experimental study of framing effects on free-riding," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 43(4), pages 405-421, December.
  32. Benedikt Herrmann & Christian Thöni, 2009. "Measuring conditional cooperation: a replication study in Russia," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 12(1), pages 87-92, March.
  33. Rachel T. A. Croson, 2007. "Theories Of Commitment, Altruism And Reciprocity: Evidence From Linear Public Goods Games," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 45(2), pages 199-216, 04.
  34. Talbot Page & Louis Putterman & Bulent Unel, 2005. "Voluntary Association in Public Goods Experiments: Reciprocity, Mimicry and Efficiency," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 115(506), pages 1032-1053, October.
  35. Croson, Rachel T. A., 1996. "Partners and strangers revisited," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 53(1), pages 25-32, October.
  36. 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.
  37. Croson, Rachel & Fatas, Enrique & Neugebauer, Tibor, 2005. "Reciprocity, matching and conditional cooperation in two public goods games," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 87(1), pages 95-101, April.
  38. 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.
  39. R. Isaac & James Walker & Susan Thomas, 1984. "Divergent evidence on free riding: An experimental examination of possible explanations," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 43(2), pages 113-149, January.
  40. Laury, Susan K. & Walker, James M. & Williams, Arlington W., 1995. "Anonymity and the voluntary provision of public goods," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 27(3), pages 365-380, August.
  41. Roberto Burlando & Francesco Guala, 2005. "Heterogeneous Agents in Public Goods Experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 8(1), pages 35-54, April.
  42. 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.
  43. 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.
  44. Manuel Arellano & Stephen Bond, 1991. "Some Tests of Specification for Panel Data: Monte Carlo Evidence and an Application to Employment Equations," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 58(2), pages 277-297.
  45. Brandts, Jordi & Schram, Arthur, 2001. "Cooperation and noise in public goods experiments: applying the contribution function approach," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 79(2), pages 399-427, February.
  46. repec:dau:papers:123456789/4809 is not listed on IDEAS
  47. Gunnthorsdottir, Anna & Houser, Daniel & McCabe, Kevin, 2007. "Disposition, history and contributions in public goods experiments," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 62(2), pages 304-315, February.
  48. Duffy, John & Ochs, Jack, 2009. "Cooperative behavior and the frequency of social interaction," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 66(2), pages 785-812, July.
  49. Palfrey, Thomas R & Prisbrey, Jeffrey E, 1997. "Anomalous Behavior in Public Goods Experiments: How Much and Why?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(5), pages 829-846, December.
  50. Goeree, Jacob K. & Holt, Charles A. & Laury, Susan K., 2002. "Private costs and public benefits: unraveling the effects of altruism and noisy behavior," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 83(2), pages 255-276, February.
  51. Sugden, Robert, 1984. "Reciprocity: The Supply of Public Goods through Voluntary Contributions," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 94(376), pages 772-787, December.
  52. Simon Gächter & Christian Thöni, 2005. "Social Learning and Voluntary Cooperation Among Like-Minded People," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 3(2-3), pages 303-314, 04/05.
  53. Richard Ashley & Sheryl Ball & Catherine Eckel, 2010. "Motives for Giving: A Reanalysis of Two Classic Public Goods Experiments," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 77(1), pages 15-26, July.
  54. Nicholas Bardsley & Peter Moffatt, 2007. "The Experimetrics of Public Goods: Inferring Motivations from Contributions," Theory and Decision, Springer, vol. 62(2), pages 161-193, March.
  55. Sonnemans, Joep & Schram, Arthur & Offerman, Theo, 1999. "Strategic behavior in public good games: when partners drift apart," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 62(1), pages 35-41, January.
  56. Gachter, Simon & Fehr, Ernst, 1999. "Collective action as a social exchange," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 39(4), pages 341-369, July.
  57. Urs Fischbacher, 2007. "z-Tree: Zurich toolbox for ready-made economic experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 10(2), pages 171-178, June.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is featured on the following reading lists or Wikipedia pages:

  1. Social Preferences, Beliefs, and the Dynamics of Free Riding in Public Goods Experiments (AER 2010) in ReplicationWiki

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:100:y:2010:i:1:p:541-56. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Jane Voros)

or (Michael P. Albert)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.