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Strength of the Social Dilemma in a Public Goods Experiment: An Exploration of the Error Hypothesis

  • Marc Willinger


  • Anthony Ziegelmeyer

We present the results of an experiment on voluntary contributions to a public good with a unique dominant strategy equilibrium in the interior of the strategy space. The treatment variable is the equilibrium contribution level. By increasing the equilibrium contribution level, we reduce the “strength†of the social dilemma. Though we observe that the average level of contribution rises with the equilibrium contribution level, the average rate of over-contribution is not affected in a systematic way. Over-contribution is statistically significant only at the lower level of equilibrium contribution but not at the higher levels. We show that the Anderson et al. (1998, Journal of Public Economics. 70, 297–323) logit equilibrium model which combines altruism and decision errors fits quite well our laboratory data. Copyright Kluwer Academic Publishers 2001

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Article provided by Springer in its journal Experimental Economics.

Volume (Year): 4 (2001)
Issue (Month): 2 (October)
Pages: 131-144

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Handle: RePEc:kap:expeco:v:4:y:2001:i:2:p:131-144
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  1. Selten, Reinhard, 1991. "Properties of a measure of predictive success," Mathematical Social Sciences, Elsevier, vol. 21(2), pages 153-167, April.
  2. Brandts, Jordi & Schram, Arthur, 2001. "Cooperation and noise in public goods experiments: applying the contribution function approach," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 79(2), pages 399-427, February.
  3. Palfrey, Thomas R & Prisbrey, Jeffrey E, 1997. "Anomalous Behavior in Public Goods Experiments: How Much and Why?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(5), pages 829-46, December.
  4. Keser, Claudia, 1996. "Voluntary contributions to a public good when partial contribution is a dominant strategy," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 50(3), pages 359-366, March.
  5. David K. Levine, 1998. "Modeling Altruism and Spitefulness in Experiment," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 1(3), pages 593-622, July.
  6. repec:att:wimass:9006 is not listed on IDEAS
  7. Marc WILLINGER & Anthony ZIEGELMEYER, 1999. "Non-Cooperative Behavior in a Public Goods Experiment with Interior Solution," Working Papers of BETA 9922, Bureau d'Economie Théorique et Appliquée, UDS, Strasbourg.
  8. Gary E Bolton & Axel Ockenfels, 1997. "A Theory of Equity, Reciprocity, and Competition," Levine's Working Paper Archive 1889, David K. Levine.
  9. Andreoni, James, 1995. "Cooperation in Public-Goods Experiments: Kindness or Confusion?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(4), pages 891-904, September.
  10. Andreoni, James, 1993. "An Experimental Test of the Public-Goods Crowding-Out Hypothesis," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(5), pages 1317-27, December.
  11. Chan, Kenneth S. & Godby, Rob & Mestelman, Stuart & Andrew Muller, R., 2002. "Crowding-out voluntary contributions to public goods," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 48(3), pages 305-317, July.
  12. Holt, Charles A. & Laury, Susan K., 2008. "Theoretical Explanations of Treatment Effects in Voluntary Contributions Experiments," Handbook of Experimental Economics Results, Elsevier.
  13. Sefton, Martin & Steinberg, Richard, 1996. "Reward structures in public good experiments," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 61(2), pages 263-287, August.
  14. Anderson, Simon P. & Goeree, Jacob K. & Holt, Charles A., 1998. "A theoretical analysis of altruism and decision error in public goods games," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(2), pages 297-323, November.
  15. Laury, Susan K. & Holt, Charles A., 2008. "Voluntary Provision of Public Goods: Experimental Results with Interior Nash Equilibria," Handbook of Experimental Economics Results, Elsevier.
  16. R. Isaac & James Walker, 1998. "Nash as an Organizing Principle in the Voluntary Provision of Public Goods: Experimental Evidence," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 1(3), pages 191-206, December.
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