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Cooperation in social dilemmas: The necessity of seeing self-control conflict


  • Peter Martinsson

    (University of Gothenburg)

  • Kristian Ove R. Myrseth

    (ESMT European School of Management and Technology)

  • Conny Wollbrant

    (University of Gothenburg)


Individuals in a social dilemma may experience a self-control conflict between urges to act selfishly and their better judgment to cooperate. Pairing a public goods game with a subtle framing technique, we test whether perception of self-control conflict strengthens the association between self-control and cooperation. Consistent with our hypothesis, cooperative behavior is positively associated with self-control for individuals in the treatment that raised the relative likelihood of perceiving conflict, but not associated with self-control in the treatment that lowered the likelihood. These results help advance our understanding of the role of self-control in social interaction.

Suggested Citation

  • Peter Martinsson & Kristian Ove R. Myrseth & Conny Wollbrant, 2010. "Cooperation in social dilemmas: The necessity of seeing self-control conflict," ESMT Research Working Papers ESMT-10-004 (R1), ESMT European School of Management and Technology, revised 16 Nov 2012.
  • Handle: RePEc:esm:wpaper:esmt-10-004

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    Cited by:

    1. Martin G. Kocher & Peter Martinsson & Kristian Ove R. Myrseth & Conny E. Wollbrant, 2017. "Strong, bold, and kind: self-control and cooperation in social dilemmas," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 20(1), pages 44-69, March.
    2. Daniel Houser & Natalia Montinari & Marco Piovesan, 2012. "Private and Public Decisions in Social Dilemmas: Evidence from ChildrenÕs Behavior," Working Papers 1034, George Mason University, Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science.
    3. Kristian Ove R. Myrseth & Gerhard Riener & Conny Wollbrant, 2013. "Tangible temptation in the social dilemma: Cash, cooperation, and self-control," ESMT Research Working Papers ESMT-13-04, ESMT European School of Management and Technology.

    More about this item


    self-control; pro-social behavior; public good experiment; conditional cooperation;

    JEL classification:

    • D01 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Microeconomic Behavior: Underlying Principles
    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • D64 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Altruism; Philanthropy; Intergenerational Transfers
    • D70 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - General

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