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Imperfect Public Monitoring with Costly Punishment: An Experimental Study

  • Attila Ambrus
  • Ben Greiner

This paper experimentally investigates the effects of a costly punishment option on cooperation and social welfare in long, finitely repeated public good contribution games. In a perfect monitoring environment, increasing the severity of the potential punishment monotonically increases average net payoffs. In a more realistic imperfect monitoring environment, we find a U-shaped relationship. Access to a standard punishment technology in this setting significantly decreases net payoffs, even in the long run. Access to a severe punishment technology leads to roughly the same payoffs as with no punishment option, as the benefits of increased cooperation offset the social costs of punishing. (JEL C92, H41, K42)

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

Volume (Year): 102 (2012)
Issue (Month): 7 (December)
Pages: 3317-32

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Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:102:y:2012:i:7:p:3317-32
Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.102.7.3317
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  1. Klaus Abbink & Abdolkarim Sadrieh, 2008. "The Pleasure of Being Nasty," FEMM Working Papers 08037, Otto-von-Guericke University Magdeburg, Faculty of Economics and Management.
  2. Patel, Amrish & Cartwright, Edward & Mark, Van Vugt, 2010. "Punishment Cannot Sustain Cooperation in a Public Good Game with Free-Rider Anonymity," Working Papers in Economics 451, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics.
  3. Roth, Alvin & Bereby-Meyer, Yoella, 2006. "The Speed of Learning in Noisy Games: Partial Reinforcement and the Sustainability of Cooperation," Scholarly Articles 2580381, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  4. Cason, Timothy N. & Khan, Feisal U., 1999. "A laboratory study of voluntary public goods provision with imperfect monitoring and communication," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 58(2), pages 533-552, April.
  5. Ernst Fehr & Simon Gaechter, 1999. "Cooperation and Punishment in Public Goods Experiments," CESifo Working Paper Series 183, CESifo Group Munich.
  6. Sung Ha Hwang & Samuel Bowles, 2008. "Is altruism bad for cooperation?," UMASS Amherst Economics Working Papers 2008-13, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Department of Economics.
  7. Kahn, Lawrence M. & Murnighan, J. Keith, 1993. "Conjecture, uncertainty, and cooperation in prisoner's dilemma games : Some experimental evidence," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 91-117, September.
  8. Bolton, Gary E. & Katok, Elena & Ockenfels, Axel, 2005. "Cooperation among strangers with limited information about reputation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(8), pages 1457-1468, August.
  9. Aoyagi, Masaki & Fréchette, Guillaume, 2009. "Collusion as public monitoring becomes noisy: Experimental evidence," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 144(3), pages 1135-1165, May.
  10. Nikos Nikiforakis, 2010. "Experimental Economics," Australian Economic Review, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, vol. 43(3), pages 337-345.
  11. Greiner, Ben, 2004. "An Online Recruitment System for Economic Experiments," MPRA Paper 13513, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  12. Urs Fischbacher, 2007. "z-Tree: Zurich toolbox for ready-made economic experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 10(2), pages 171-178, June.
  13. Fudenberg, Drew & Dreber, Anna & Rand, David G. & Nowak, Martin, 2008. "Winners Don't Punish," Scholarly Articles 2252594, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  14. Sainty, Barbara, 1999. "Achieving greater cooperation in a noisy prisoner's dilemma: an experimental investigation," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 39(4), pages 421-435, July.
  15. Rand, David Gertler & Dreber, Anna & Fudenberg, Drew & Ellingson, Tore & Nowak, Martin A., 2009. "Positive Interactions Promote Public Cooperation," Scholarly Articles 3804483, Harvard University Department of Economics.
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