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Social dilemmas and shame-based sanctions: experimental results from rural Zimbabwe

Listed author(s):
  • Abigail Barr

Using two economic experiments I investigate how a sample of rural communities in Zimbabwe approach social dilemmas. When provided with an opportunity to impose sanctions in the context of a public goods game, fourteen out of eighteen communities achieved higher levels of cooperation. In thirteen communities the imposition of shame-based sanctions in the form of lighthearted criticism was observed. The resulting data revealed that: both non-cooperators and cooperators were criticised; community members cared about what their neighbours thought of them and made adjustments to their behaviour accordingly; the overall pattern rather than individual experiences of criticism affected subsequent behaviour; those who made low contributions and witnessed the criticism of others who made similar contributions, made higher contributions subsequently; while those who experienced such criticism first-hand made significantly smaller adjustments to their behaviour; those who made high contributions and witnessed the criticism of others who made similar contributions, made lower contributions subsequently; and to the extent that an opportunity to criticise passed by unexploited subsequent levels of cooperation were reduced.

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Paper provided by Centre for the Study of African Economies, University of Oxford in its series CSAE Working Paper Series with number 2001-11.

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Date of creation: 2001
Handle: RePEc:csa:wpaper:2001-11
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