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Behavior in Group Contests: A Review of Experimental Research

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  • Roman M. Sheremeta

    () (Weatherhead School of Management, Case Western Reserve University and Economic Science Institute, Chapman University)

Abstract

Group contests are ubiquitous. Some examples include warfare between countries, competition between political parties, team-incentives within firms, group sports, and rent-seeking. In order to succeed, members of the same group have incentives to cooperate with each other by expending individual efforts. However, since effort is costly, each member also has an incentive to abstain from expending any effort and instead free-ride on the efforts of other members. Contest theory shows that the intensity of competition between groups and the amount of freeriding within groups depend on the group size, sharing rule, group impact function, contest success function, and heterogeneity of players. We review experimental studies testing these theoretical predictions. Almost all studies of behavior in group contests find significant overexpenditure of effort relative to the theory. We discuss potential explanations for such overexpenditure, including the utility of winning, bounded rationality, relative payoff maximization, parochial altruism, and social identity. Despite over-expenditure, most studies find support for the comparative statics predictions of the theory (with the exception of the “group size paradox”). Finally, studies show that there are effective mechanisms that can promote withingroup cooperation and conflict resolution mechanisms that can de-escalate and potentially eliminate between-group conflict.

Suggested Citation

  • Roman M. Sheremeta, 2015. "Behavior in Group Contests: A Review of Experimental Research," Working Papers 15-21, Chapman University, Economic Science Institute.
  • Handle: RePEc:chu:wpaper:15-21
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    1. repec:eee:gamebe:v:106:y:2017:i:c:p:239-259 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Roman M. Sheremeta, 2016. "The pros and cons of workplace tournaments," IZA World of Labor, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA), pages 302-302, October.
    3. repec:eee:joepsy:v:63:y:2017:i:c:p:143-167 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Casella, Alessandra & Laslier, Jean-François & Macé, Antonin, 2017. "Democracy for Polarized Committees: The Tale of Blotto's Lieutenants," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 106(C), pages 239-259.
    5. repec:eee:joepsy:v:63:y:2017:i:c:p:168-183 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Timothy N. Cason & Roman M. Sheremeta & Jingjing Zhang, 2017. "Asymmetric and endogenous within-group communication in competitive coordination games," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 20(4), pages 946-972, December.
    7. repec:eee:jeborg:v:144:y:2017:i:c:p:121-132 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Beekman, Gonne & Cheung, Stephen L. & Levely, Ian, 2017. "The effect of conflict history on cooperation within and between groups: Evidence from a laboratory experiment," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 63(C), pages 168-183.
    9. Kurschilgen, Michael & Morell, Alexander & Weisel, Ori, 2017. "Internal conflict, market uniformity, and transparency in price competition between teams," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 144(C), pages 121-132.
    10. Solferino, Nazaria & Taurino, SerenaFiona & Tessitore, M.Elisabetta, 2016. "Boosting cooperation between agents in diverse groups: a dynamical model of prosocial behavior, free-riding and coercive solutions," MPRA Paper 71283, University Library of Munich, Germany.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    groups; contests; experiments;

    JEL classification:

    • C7 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory
    • C9 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments
    • D7 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making
    • H4 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods
    • J4 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets
    • K4 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior
    • L2 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior
    • M5 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Personnel Economics

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