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The puzzle of cooperation in a game of chicken: An experimental study

  • Marie-Laure Cabon-Dhersin


    (ENS Cachan - École normale supérieure - Cachan, CES - Centre d'économie de la Sorbonne - UP1 - Université Panthéon-Sorbonne - CNRS)

  • Nathalie Etchart-Vincent


    (CIRED - Centre International de Recherche sur l'Environnement et le Développement - EHESS - École des hautes études en sciences sociales - AgroParisTech - CIRAD - Centre de coopération internationale en recherche agronomique pour le développement - École des Ponts ParisTech (ENPC) - CNRS, CES - Centre d'économie de la Sorbonne - UP1 - Université Panthéon-Sorbonne - CNRS)

The objective of this article is to investigate the impact of agent heterogeneity (as regards their attitude towards cooperation) and payoff structure on cooperative behaviour, using an experimental setting with incomplete information. A game of chicken is played considering two types of agents: 'unconditional cooperators', who always cooperate, and 'strategic cooperators', who do not cooperate unless it is in their interest to do so. Overall, our data show a much higher propensity to cooperate than predicted by theory. They also suggest that agent heterogeneity matters: the higher the proportion of 'strategic cooperators' in the population, the higher their probability to cooperate. Finally, our data confirm that higher rewards to cooperation (embedded in the payoff structure) tend to lower defection. Taken together, our results suggest that the subjects might be non-expected utility maximizers, dealing with both outcomes and probabilities in a non-linear manner.

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Paper provided by HAL in its series Université Paris1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (Post-Print and Working Papers) with number hal-00636089.

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Date of creation: 2012
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published in Theory and Decision, Springer Verlag, 2012, 72 (1), pp.65-87. <10.1007/s11238-010-9220-9>
Handle: RePEc:hal:cesptp:hal-00636089
DOI: 10.1007/s11238-010-9220-9
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