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When punishment fails: Research on sanctions, intentions and non-cooperation

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  • Houser, Daniel
  • Xiao, Erte
  • McCabe, Kevin
  • Smith, Vernon

Abstract

People can become less cooperative when threatened with sanctions, and previous research suggests both "intentions" and incentives underlie this effect. We report data from an experiment aimed at determining the relative importance of intentions and incentives in producing non-cooperative behavior. Participants play a one-shot investment experiment in pairs. Investors send an amount to trustees, request a return on this investment and, in some treatments, can threaten sanctions to enforce their requests. Decisions by trustees facing threats imposed (or not) by investors are compared to decisions by trustees facing threats imposed (or not) by nature. When not threatened, trustees typically decide to return a positive amount less than the investor requested. When threatened this decision becomes least common. If the request is large relative to the sanction then most trustees return nothing. If the request is small, trustees typically return the requested amount. These results do not vary with investors' intentions.

Suggested Citation

  • Houser, Daniel & Xiao, Erte & McCabe, Kevin & Smith, Vernon, 2008. "When punishment fails: Research on sanctions, intentions and non-cooperation," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 62(2), pages 509-532, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:gamebe:v:62:y:2008:i:2:p:509-532
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    JEL classification:

    • C9 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments

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