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Volunteer's Dilemma


  • Andreas Diekmann

    (Institute for Sociology, University of Munich)


A conflict game simulating social traps in which a collective good can be provided by a volunteer is discussed and some solution concepts are analyzed. There is a greater incentive for “free riding†than for the production of the collective good at the cost of the volunteer. However, if everybody defects, all players will lose. Such a result is frequently produced by “diffusion of responsibility†as described by Darley and Latané (1968). In contrast to other social traps, a dominant strategy does not exist. Also, the mixed-equilibrium strategy yields very low payoffs. The expected gain is not greater than the payoff achieved by the nonequilibrium maximum strategy. Superrationality might be a way out of the trap. However, this concept lacks the desirable equilibrium property. Only in the free communication version of the game can a definitive answer to the question of a rational strategy be given.

Suggested Citation

  • Andreas Diekmann, 1985. "Volunteer's Dilemma," Journal of Conflict Resolution, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 29(4), pages 605-610, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:jocore:v:29:y:1985:i:4:p:605-610
    DOI: 10.1177/0022002785029004003

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