Workers' propensity to cooperate with colleagues and the general population: a comparison based on a field experiment
Experimental evidence shows that people tend to be more cooperative with persons belonging to their own group than with others. Strangely enough, this literature largely fails to consider a type of group pervasive in modern societies: colleagues belonging to the same productive organization. This is particularly curious if one considers the importance of cooperation among colleagues for the economic performance of organizations. This paper carries out an original experimental analysis which compares the level of cooperation of social cooperative workers when they are paired with colleagues and with people from the general population. In contrast with the literature on in-group favoritism, we find that workers trust their colleagues less and cooperate less with them than they do with people from the general public, even though, in absolute terms, the level of cooperation is quite high also among colleagues. By analyzing first- and second-order beliefs, we show that the difference in cooperation is partly mediated by expectations concerning the counterpart's behavior, since workers expect their colleagues to be less cooperative than members of the general public. However, the analysis reveals that also other motivations count, such as other-regarding preferences and warm glow.
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