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Endogenous Transfers in the Prisoner’s Dilemma Game: An Experimental Test Of Cooperation And Coordination


  • Charness, Gary B
  • Qin, Cheng-Zhong


We study experimentally a two-stage compensation mechanism for promoting cooperation in prisoner’s dilemma games. In stage 1, players simultaneously choose binding non-negative amounts to pay their counterparts for cooperating in a given prisoner’s dilemma game, and then play the prisoner’s dilemma game in stage 2 with knowledge of these amounts. For the asymmetric prisoner’s dilemma games we consider, all payment pairs consistent with mutual cooperation in subgame-perfect equilibrium transform these prisoner’s dilemma games into coordination games, with both mutual cooperation and mutual defection as Nash equilibria in the stage-2 game. We find considerable empirical support for the mechanism, as cooperation is much more common when these endogenous transfer payments are feasible. We identify patterns among transfer pairs that affect the likelihood of cooperation. Mutual cooperation is most likely when the payments are identical; it is also substantially more likely with payment pairs that bring the payoffs from mutual cooperation closer together than with payment pairs that cause them to diverge. There is substantial scope for this compensation mechanism to achieve beneficial social outcomes in commerce and in international affairs, and reason to be concerned about the ability of firms to design collusive agreements.

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  • Charness, Gary B & Qin, Cheng-Zhong, 2005. "Endogenous Transfers in the Prisoner’s Dilemma Game: An Experimental Test Of Cooperation And Coordination," University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series qt9cm846c4, Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara.
  • Handle: RePEc:cdl:ucsbec:qt9cm846c4

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Gary Charness & Matthew Rabin, 2002. "Understanding Social Preferences with Simple Tests," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(3), pages 817-869.
    2. Cooper, Russell & DeJong, Douglas V. & Forsythe, Robert & Ross, Thomas W., 1996. "Cooperation without Reputation: Experimental Evidence from Prisoner's Dilemma Games," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 12(2), pages 187-218, February.
    3. Andreoni,J. & Varian,H., 1999. "Pre-play contracting in the prisoners' dilemma," Working papers 18, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
    4. Andreoni, James A & Miller, John H, 1993. "Rational Cooperation in the Finitely Repeated Prisoner's Dilemma: Experimental Evidence," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 103(418), pages 570-585, May.
    5. Matthew O. Jackson & Simon Wilkie, 2005. "Endogenous Games and Mechanisms: Side Payments Among Players," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 72(2), pages 543-566.
    6. Hoffman, Elizabeth & Spitzer, Matthew L, 1982. "The Coase Theorem: Some Experimental Tests," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 25(1), pages 73-98, April.
    7. Duffy, John & Ochs, Jack, 2009. "Cooperative behavior and the frequency of social interaction," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 66(2), pages 785-812, July.
    8. Harrison, Glenn W & McKee, Michael, 1985. "Experimental Evaluation of the Coase Theorem," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 28(3), pages 653-670, October.
    9. Kahneman, Daniel & Knetsch, Jack L & Thaler, Richard H, 1990. "Experimental Tests of the Endowment Effect and the Coase Theorem," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(6), pages 1325-1348, December.
    10. Roth, Alvin E, 1988. "Laboratory Experimentation in Economics: A Methodological Overview," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 98(393), pages 974-1031, December.
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