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Confusion and Learning in the Public Goods Game


  • Ralph-C Bayer

    () (School of Economics, University of Adelaide)

  • Elke Renner

    (University of Nottingham)

  • Rupert Sausgruber

    (University of Copenhagen)


We test if confusion and learning could potentially explain all the decay of contributions in the repeated public goods games by implementing a limited information environment to mimic the state of confusion. A comparison shows that the rate of decline is more than twice as high in a standard public goods game. Furthermore, we find that simple learning cannot generate the contribution dynamics, which are commonly attributed to the existence of conditional cooperators. We conclude that cooperative behavior observed in public goods games is not a pure artefact of confusion and learning.

Suggested Citation

  • Ralph-C Bayer & Elke Renner & Rupert Sausgruber, 2010. "Confusion and Learning in the Public Goods Game," School of Economics Working Papers 2010-24, University of Adelaide, School of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:adl:wpaper:2010-24

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Fischbacher, Urs & Gachter, Simon & Fehr, Ernst, 2001. "Are people conditionally cooperative? Evidence from a public goods experiment," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 71(3), pages 397-404, June.
    2. Daniel Houser & Robert Kurzban, 2002. "Revisiting Kindness and Confusion in Public Goods Experiments," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(4), pages 1062-1069, September.
    3. Urs Fischbacher, 2007. "z-Tree: Zurich toolbox for ready-made economic experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 10(2), pages 171-178, June.
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    More about this item


    public goods experiments; learning; limited information; confusion; conditional cooperation;

    JEL classification:

    • C90 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - General
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods

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