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One bad apple? Heterogeneity and information in public good provision


  • Angela Oliveira


  • Rachel Croson
  • Catherine Eckel


Previous research demonstrates that individuals vary in their social preferences. Less well-understood is how group composition affects the behavior of different social preference types. Does one bad apple really spoil the bunch? This paper exogenously identifies experimental participants’ social preferences, then systematically assigns individuals to homogeneous or heterogeneous groups to examine the impact of ‘bad apples’ on cooperation and efficiency. Consistent with previous research, we find that groups with more selfish types achieve lower levels of efficiency. We identify two mechanisms for the effect. First, the selfish players contribute less. Second, selfish players induce lower contributions from the conditional cooperators, and this effect increases in the number of selfish players. These results are not sensitive to information about the distribution of types in the group. Copyright Economic Science Association 2015

Suggested Citation

  • Angela Oliveira & Rachel Croson & Catherine Eckel, 2015. "One bad apple? Heterogeneity and information in public good provision," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 18(1), pages 116-135, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:expeco:v:18:y:2015:i:1:p:116-135
    DOI: 10.1007/s10683-014-9412-1

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Boosey, Luke A., 2017. "Conditional cooperation in network public goods experiments," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 69(C), pages 108-116.
    2. Haruvy, Ernan & Li, Sherry Xin & McCabe, Kevin & Twieg, Peter, 2017. "Communication and visibility in public goods provision," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 105(C), pages 276-296.
    3. Alós-Ferrer, Carlos & Garagnani, Michele, 2020. "The cognitive foundations of cooperation," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 175(C), pages 71-85.
    4. Vyrastekova, Jana & Funaki, Yukihiko, 2018. "Cooperation in a sequential dilemma game: How much transparency is good for cooperation?," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 77(C), pages 88-95.
    5. Dimant, Eugen, 2019. "Contagion of pro- and anti-social behavior among peers and the role of social proximity," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 73(C), pages 66-88.
    6. Boosey, Luke & Mark Isaac, R. & Norton, Douglas & Stinn, Joseph, 2020. "Cooperation, contributor types, and control questions," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 85(C).
    7. Heinz, Matthias & Schumacher, Heiner, 2017. "Signaling cooperation," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 98(C), pages 199-216.
    8. Guido, Andrea & Robbett, Andrea & Romaniuc, Rustam, 2019. "Group formation and cooperation in social dilemmas: A survey and meta-analytic evidence," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 159(C), pages 192-209.
    9. Li, Sherry Xin & de Oliveira, Angela C.M. & Eckel, Catherine, 2017. "Common identity and the voluntary provision of public goods: An experimental investigation," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 142(C), pages 32-46.
    10. Dekel, Sagi & Fischer, Sven & Zultan, Ro’i, 2017. "Potential Pareto Public Goods," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 146(C), pages 87-96.
    11. Angelovski, Andrej & Di Cagno, Daniela & Güth, Werner & Marazzi, Francesca & Panaccione, Luca, 2018. "Does heterogeneity spoil the basket? The role of productivity and feedback information on public good provision," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 77(C), pages 40-49.
    12. Eichenseer, Michael & Moser, Johannes, 2020. "Conditional cooperation: Type stability across games," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 188(C).
    13. Tjaša Bjedov & Simon Lapointe & Thierry Madiès & Marie Claire Villeval, 2018. "Does decentralization of decisions increase the stability of large groups?," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 51(4), pages 681-716, December.
    14. Andreas Niedermayr & Lena Schaller & Petr Mariel & Pia Kieninger & Jochen Kantelhardt, 2018. "Heterogeneous Preferences for Public Goods Provided by Agriculture in a Region of Intensive Agricultural Production: The Case of the Marchfeld," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 10(6), pages 1-18, June.
    15. Morgan, Stephen N. & Mason, Nicole M. & Shupp, Robert S., 2019. "The effects of voice with(out) punishment: Public goods provision and rule compliance," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 74(C).
    16. Serhiy Kandul & Bruno Lanz, 2018. "When within- and outgroup norms conflict: A public good experiment with strategic ignorance of social norms," IRENE Working Papers 18-06, IRENE Institute of Economic Research.
    17. Toke R. Fosgaard, 2018. "Cooperation stability: A representative sample in the lab," IFRO Working Paper 2018/08, University of Copenhagen, Department of Food and Resource Economics.

    More about this item


    Public goods; Group composition; Cooperation; Social preference types; Heterogeneity; H41; C91;

    JEL classification:

    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods
    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior


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