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The Evolution of Cooperative Norms: Evidence from a Natural Field Experiment

  • Bandiera, Oriana
  • Barankay, Iwan
  • Rasul, Imran

We document the establishment and evolution of a cooperative norm among workers using evidence from a natural field experiment on a leading UK farm. Workers are paid according to a relative incentive scheme under which increasing individual effort raises a worker's own pay but imposes a negative externality on the pay of all co-workers, thus creating a rationale for cooperation. As a counterfactual, we analyse worker behaviour when workers are paid piece rates and thus have no incentive to cooperate. We find that workers cooperate more as their exposure to the relative incentive scheme increases. We also find that individual and group exposure are substitutes, namely workers who work alongside colleagues with higher exposure cooperate more. Shocks to the workforce in the form of new worker arrivals disrupt cooperation in the short term but are then quickly integrated into the norm. Individual exposure, group exposure, and the arrival of new workers have no effect on productivity when workers and paid piece rates and there is no incentive to cooperate.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 5358.

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Date of creation: Nov 2005
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:5358
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  1. Masclet, D. & Noussair, C. & Tucker, S. & Villeval, M.C., 2001. "Monetary and Non-monetary Punishment in the Voluntary Contributions Mechanism," Purdue University Economics Working Papers 1141, Purdue University, Department of Economics.
  2. John A. List, 2004. "Neoclassical Theory Versus Prospect Theory: Evidence from the Marketplace," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 72(2), pages 615-625, 03.
  3. Oriana Bandiera & Iwan Barankay & Imran Rasul, 2005. "Social Preferences and the Response to Incentives: Evidence from Personnel Data," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 120(3), pages 917-962, August.
  4. Glenn W. Harrison & John A. List, 2004. "Field Experiments," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 42(4), pages 1009-1055, December.
  5. Mark Isaac, R. & McCue, Kenneth F. & Plott, Charles R., 1985. "Public goods provision in an experimental environment," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 26(1), pages 51-74, February.
  6. John O. Ledyard, 1994. "Public Goods: A Survey of Experimental Research," Public Economics 9405003, EconWPA, revised 22 May 1994.
  7. John List, 2003. "Does market experience eliminate market anomalies?," Natural Field Experiments 00297, The Field Experiments Website.
  8. Ernst Fehr & Simon Gaechter, 1999. "Cooperation and Punishment in Public Goods Experiments," CESifo Working Paper Series 183, CESifo Group Munich.
  9. Jeffrey Carpenter & Erika Seki, 2005. "Competitive Work Environments and Social Preferences: Field experimental evidence from a japanese fishing community," Middlebury College Working Paper Series 0513, Middlebury College, Department of Economics.
  10. Andreoni, James, 1988. "Why free ride? : Strategies and learning in public goods experiments," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 37(3), pages 291-304, December.
  11. Steffen Huck & Hans-Theo Normann & Joerg Oechssler, 2004. "Through Trial and Error to Collusion," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 45(1), pages 205-224, 02.
  12. Robert Slonim & Alvin E. Roth, 1998. "Learning in High Stakes Ultimatum Games: An Experiment in the Slovak Republic," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 66(3), pages 569-596, May.
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