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Water Cooler Ostracism: Social Exclusion as a Punishment Mechanism


  • Brent J Davis

    () (Department of Economics, Florida State University, 288 Bellamy Building, 113 Collegiate Loop, Tallahassee, FL 32306, USA.)

  • David B Johnson

    () (Department of Economics, University of Calgary, 554 Social Science Building, 2500 University Dr. NW, Calgary, AB, T2N 1N4, Canada.)


Within social situations individuals can be punished with social ostracism. Ostracized individuals are removed from social aspects of the group but remain formal members. Social ostracism may occur in the workplace when workers produce a joint good among their inputs. Since workers are homogeneous, no worker has the ability to unilaterally punish free-riding behavior. Yet, the group as a whole has the capacity to punish free-riding group members with social punishments. We examine the effectiveness of social ostracism as a punishment for free-riding. We find that social ostracism helps maintain cooperation but only after prior experience without possible social punishment.

Suggested Citation

  • Brent J Davis & David B Johnson, 2015. "Water Cooler Ostracism: Social Exclusion as a Punishment Mechanism," Eastern Economic Journal, Palgrave Macmillan;Eastern Economic Association, vol. 41(1), pages 126-151, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:pal:easeco:v:41:y:2015:i:1:p:126-151

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    Cited by:

    1. Marie Claire Villeval, 2017. "Exclusion and reintegration in a social dilemna," Post-Print halshs-01662829, HAL.
    2. David Blake Johnson, 2016. "(Please Don't) Say It to My Face! The Interaction of Feedback and Distance: Experiments with Vulgar Language," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 69(2), pages 336-368, May.

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