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Not just like starting over - Leadership and revivification of cooperation in groups


  • Jordi Brandts

    () (Instituto de Analisis Economico (CSIC) and Barcelona GSE)

  • Christina Rott

    () (Maastricht University)

  • Carles Solà

    () (Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona)


Abstract We conduct a laboratory experiment to study how, after a history of decay, cooperation in a repeated voluntary contribution game can be revived in an enduring way. Simply starting the repeated game over—a simple fresh start—leads to an initial increase of cooperation, but to a subsequent new decay. Motivated by cooperation decay in organizations we study the potential of three interventions of triggering higher and sustained cooperation, which take place at the same time as a restart. Surprisingly, we find that the detailed explanation of the causes of the decay in cooperation of Fischbacher and Gächter (Am Econ Rev 100:541–556, 2010) combined with an advice on how to prevent decay do not have an effect beyond that of just starting over. In contrast, a one-way free form communication message sent by the leader to the followers strongly revives cooperation. We find evidence that repeated free form communication by the leader further strengthens the reviving effect on cooperation. Combining the two previous interventions does not outperform the pure effect of communication. Our content analysis reveals that leader communication is more people oriented than the expert advice.

Suggested Citation

  • Jordi Brandts & Christina Rott & Carles Solà, 2016. "Not just like starting over - Leadership and revivification of cooperation in groups," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 19(4), pages 792-818, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:expeco:v:19:y:2016:i:4:d:10.1007_s10683-015-9468-6
    DOI: 10.1007/s10683-015-9468-6

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item


    Leadership; Cooperation; Communication; Experiments;

    JEL classification:

    • C71 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Cooperative Games
    • C73 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Stochastic and Dynamic Games; Evolutionary Games
    • C92 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Group Behavior
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • J63 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Turnover; Vacancies; Layoffs
    • L20 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - General


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