Cooperation in Public Goods Experiments: Kindness or Confusion?
The persistence of cooperation in public-goods experiments has become an important puzzle for economists. This paper presents the first systematic attempt to separate the hypothesis that cooperation is due to kindness, altruism, or warm-glow from the hypothesis that cooperation is simply the result of errors or confusion. The experiment reveals that, on average, about half of all cooperation comes from subjects who understand free-riding but choose to cooperate out of some form of kindness. This suggests that the focus on errors and 'learning' in experimental research should shift to include studies of preferences for cooperation as well. Copyright 1995 by American Economic Association.
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