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Group Size, Coordination, and the Effectiveness of Punishment in the Voluntary Contributions Mechanism: An Experimental Investigation

Author

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  • Bin Xu

    () (Experimental Social Science Laboratory, Zhejiang University and Public Administration College, Zhejiang Gongshang University, Hangzhou, China
    Bin Xu is the holder of the grant from the Social Science Experimental Center of Zhejiang University that funded this project. All authors contributed equally to the study.)

  • C. Bram Cadsby

    () (Department of Economics and Finance, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON, N1G 2W1, Canada)

  • Liangcong Fan

    () (Guanghua Law School, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China)

  • Fei Song

    () (Ted Rogers School of Management, Ryerson University, Toronto, ON, M5G 2C5, Canada)

Abstract

We examine the effectiveness of the individual-punishment mechanism in larger groups, comparing groups of four to groups of 40 participants. We find that the individual punishment mechanism is remarkably robust when the marginal per capita return (MPCR), i.e. the return to each participant from each dollar that is contributed, is held constant. Moreover, the efficiency gains from the punishment mechanism are significantly higher in the 40-participant than in the four-participant treatment. This is true despite the coordination problems inherent in an institution relying on decentralized individual punishment decisions in the context of a larger group. It reflects increased per capita expenditures on punishment that offset the greater coordination difficulties in the larger group. However, if the marginal group return (MGR), i.e. the return to the entire group of participants, stays constant, resulting in an MPCR that shrinks with group size, no such offset occurs and punishment loses much but not all of its effectiveness at encouraging voluntary contributions to a public good. Efficiency is not significantly different from the small-group treatment.

Suggested Citation

  • Bin Xu & C. Bram Cadsby & Liangcong Fan & Fei Song, 2013. "Group Size, Coordination, and the Effectiveness of Punishment in the Voluntary Contributions Mechanism: An Experimental Investigation," Games, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 4(1), pages 1-17, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:gam:jgames:v:4:y:2013:i:1:p:89-105:d:23658
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. 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.
    5. Bochet, Olivier & Page, Talbot & Putterman, Louis, 2006. "Communication and punishment in voluntary contribution experiments," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 60(1), pages 11-26, May.
    6. James Andreoni & William Harbaugh & Lise Vesterlund, 2003. "The Carrot or the Stick: Rewards, Punishments, and Cooperation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(3), pages 893-902, June.
    7. Isaac, R. Mark & Walker, James M. & Williams, Arlington W., 1994. "Group size and the voluntary provision of public goods : Experimental evidence utilizing large groups," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(1), pages 1-36, May.
    8. 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.
    9. Anderson, Christopher M. & Putterman, Louis, 2006. "Do non-strategic sanctions obey the law of demand? The demand for punishment in the voluntary contribution mechanism," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 54(1), pages 1-24, January.
    10. 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.
    11. Casari, Marco & Luini, Luigi, 2009. "Cooperation under alternative punishment institutions: An experiment," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 71(2), pages 273-282, August.
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    Cited by:

    1. Aurélie Bonein & Cécile Bazart, 2017. "The Strength of the Symbol: Are we Willing to Punish Evaders ?," Working Papers 17-02, LAMETA, Universtiy of Montpellier.
    2. Richard Benjamin, 2016. "Tacit Collusion in Electricity Markets with Uncertain Demand," Review of Industrial Organization, Springer;The Industrial Organization Society, vol. 48(1), pages 69-93, February.
    3. Richard Benjamin, 2016. "Tacit Collusion in Electricity Markets with Uncertain Demand," Review of Industrial Organization, Springer;The Industrial Organization Society, vol. 48(1), pages 69-93, February.
    4. Duffy, John & Xie, Huan, 2016. "Group size and cooperation among strangers," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 126(PA), pages 55-74.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    public goods; marginal per capita return; MPCR; punishment mechanism; large groups;

    JEL classification:

    • C - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods
    • C7 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory
    • C70 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - General
    • C71 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Cooperative Games
    • C72 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Noncooperative Games
    • C73 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Stochastic and Dynamic Games; Evolutionary Games

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