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Strategic behavior and learning in repeated voluntary contribution experiments

  • Muller, Laurent
  • Sefton, Martin
  • Steinberg, Richard
  • Vesterlund, Lise

We present an experiment investigating why contributions decline in repeated public goods games. To distinguish between alternative explanations for this decrease we use a strategy method to elicit strategies in a simple two-stage public goods game. By repeating the game with new opponents participants have the opportunity to learn across games. We find that the behavior elicited using the strategy method is consistent with that of a direct response version of the game. Contributions in stage two are around 45% lower than contributions in stage one. While this pattern of declining contributions is robust across repetitions of the two-stage game, the participants’ strategies are not. Changes in individual strategies across successive repetitions sometimes increase and sometimes decrease stage-one contributions, on average contributions decrease by 7% per game. Thus experience with the game leads to an erratic and less pronounced deterioration in contributions, compared with the systematic and more marked deterioration generated by submitted strategies.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization.

Volume (Year): 67 (2008)
Issue (Month): 3-4 (September)
Pages: 782-793

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Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:67:y:2008:i:3-4:p:782-793
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/jebo

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  1. Andreoni, James, 1995. "Cooperation in Public-Goods Experiments: Kindness or Confusion?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(4), pages 891-904, September.
  2. Claudia Keser, 2000. "Strategically Planned Behavior in Public Good Experiments," CIRANO Working Papers 2000s-35, CIRANO.
  3. 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.
  4. R. M. Isaac & J. M. Walker, 2010. "Group size effects in public goods provision: The voluntary contribution mechanism," Levine's Working Paper Archive 310, David K. Levine.
  5. Brandts, J. & Charness, G., 1998. "Hot Vs. Cold: Sequential Responses and Preference Stability in Experimental Games," UFAE and IAE Working Papers 424.98, Unitat de Fonaments de l'Anàlisi Econòmica (UAB) and Institut d'Anàlisi Econòmica (CSIC).
  6. Urs Fischbacher & Simon Gaechter, 2006. "Heterogeneous social preferences and the dynamics of free riding in public goods," Discussion Papers 2006-01, The Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics, School of Economics, University of Nottingham.
  7. Croson, Rachel T. A., 1996. "Partners and strangers revisited," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 53(1), pages 25-32, October.
  8. Guth, Werner & Huck, Steffen & Muller, Wieland, 2001. "The Relevance of Equal Splits in Ultimatum Games," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 37(1), pages 161-169, October.
  9. Jordi Brandts & Gary Charness, 2003. "Truth or Consequences: An Experiment," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 49(1), pages 116-130, January.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
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