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Punishment despite Reasonable Doubt – A Public Goods Experiment with Uncertainty over Contributions

Author

Listed:
  • Kristoffel Grechenig

    () (Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods, Bonn)

  • Andreas Nicklisch

    () (Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods, Bonn)

  • Christian Thöni

    () (University of St. Gallen, Department of Economics)

Abstract

Under a great variety of legally relevant circumstances, people have to decide whether or not to cooperate, when they face an incentive to defect. The law sometimes provides people with sanctioning mechanisms to enforce pro-social behavior. Experimental evidence on voluntary public good provision shows that the option to punish others substantially improves cooperation, even if punishment is costly. However, these studies focus on situations where there is no uncertainty about others' behavior. We investigate punishment in a world with “reasonable doubt” about others' contributions. Interestingly, people reveal a high willingness to punish even if their information about cooperation rates is inaccurate, or noisy. If there is some non-trivial degree of noise, unishment (1) cannot maintain high contributions and (2) reduces welfare even below the level of a setting without punishment. Our findings suggest that sufficient information accuracy about others' behavior is crucial for he efficiency of sanction mechanisms. If a situation is characterized by low information accuracy, precluding sanctions can be optimal.

Suggested Citation

  • Kristoffel Grechenig & Andreas Nicklisch & Christian Thöni, 2010. "Punishment despite Reasonable Doubt – A Public Goods Experiment with Uncertainty over Contributions," Discussion Paper Series of the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods 2010_11, Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods.
  • Handle: RePEc:mpg:wpaper:2010_11
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Steven Shavell & A. Mitchell Polinsky, 2000. "The Economic Theory of Public Enforcement of Law," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 38(1), pages 45-76, March.
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    5. Greiner, Ben, 2004. "An Online Recruitment System for Economic Experiments," MPRA Paper 13513, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    6. Polinsky, A. Mitchell & Shavell, Steven, 2007. "The Theory of Public Enforcement of Law," Handbook of Law and Economics, Elsevier.
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    8. Miceli, Thomas J., 1991. "Optimal criminal procedure: Fairness and deterrence," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 11(1), pages 3-10, May.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Faillo, Marco & Grieco, Daniela & Zarri, Luca, 2013. "Legitimate punishment, feedback, and the enforcement of cooperation," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 77(1), pages 271-283.
    2. Christian Thöni, 2014. "Inequality aversion and antisocial punishment," Theory and Decision, Springer, vol. 76(4), pages 529-545, April.
    3. Nicklisch, Andreas & Grechenig, Kristoffel & Thöni, Christian, 2016. "Information-sensitive Leviathans," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 144(C), pages 1-13.
    4. Roux, Catherine & Thöni, Christian, 2015. "Collusion among many firms: The disciplinary power of targeted punishment," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 116(C), pages 83-93.
    5. Dirk Engelmann & Nikos Nikiforakis, 2015. "In the long-run we are all dead: on the benefits of peer punishment in rich environments," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 45(3), pages 561-577, October.
    6. Bruno Deffains & Claude Fluet & Romain Espinosa, 2017. "Laws and Norms: Experimental Evidence with Liability Rules," CIRANO Working Papers 2017s-13, CIRANO.
    7. Gabriele Ruiu, 2014. "The Role of Trust in Determining the Propensity to Join Unofficial Strikes," Czech Economic Review, Charles University Prague, Faculty of Social Sciences, Institute of Economic Studies, vol. 8(3), pages 125-148, December.
    8. Matteo Rizzolli & Luca Stanca, 2012. "Judicial Errors and Crime Deterrence: Theory and Experimental Evidence," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 55(2), pages 311-338.
    9. repec:eee:jeborg:v:141:y:2017:i:c:p:254-276 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Alessandro Bucciol & Natalia Montinari & Marco Piovesan & Jean-Robert Tyran, 2014. "It Wasn't Me! Visibility and Free Riding in Waste Sorting," Discussion Papers 14-12, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
    11. Erte Xiao & Howard Kunreuther, 2016. "Punishment and Cooperation in Stochastic Social Dilemmas," Journal of Conflict Resolution, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 60(4), pages 670-693, June.
    12. Andreoni, James & Gee, Laura K., 2012. "Gun for hire: Delegated enforcement and peer punishment in public goods provision," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(11), pages 1036-1046.
    13. Brown, Martin & Schmitz, Jan & Zehnder, Christian, 2016. "Social Norms and Strategic Default," Working Papers on Finance 1608, University of St. Gallen, School of Finance, revised Jun 2017.
    14. Engel, Christoph, 2014. "Social preferences can make imperfect sanctions work: Evidence from a public good experiment," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 108(C), pages 343-353.
    15. Markussen, Thomas & Putterman, Louis & Tyran, Jean-Robert, 2016. "Judicial error and cooperation," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 89(C), pages 372-388.
    16. Simon Gaechter, 2014. "Human Pro-Social Motivation and the Maintenance of Social Order," CESifo Working Paper Series 4729, CESifo Group Munich.
    17. Engel Christoph, 2011. "The Emergence of a New Rule of Customary Law: An Experimental Contribution," Review of Law & Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 7(3), pages 767-789, December.
    18. DeAngelo, Gregory & Gee, Laura Katherine, 2018. "Peers or Police? Detection and Sanctions in the Provision of Public Goods," IZA Discussion Papers 11540, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    19. Khadjavi, Menusch & Lange, Andreas & Nicklisch, Andreas, 2014. "The Social Value of Transparency and Accountability: Experimental Evidence from Asymmetric Public Good Games," Annual Conference 2014 (Hamburg): Evidence-based Economic Policy 100512, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    20. Dhammika Dharmapala & Nuno Garoupa & Richard H. McAdams, 2016. "Punitive Police? Agency Costs, Law Enforcement, and Criminal Procedure," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 45(1), pages 105-141.
    21. repec:spr:jesaex:v:3:y:2017:i:2:d:10.1007_s40881-017-0041-2 is not listed on IDEAS
    22. Feess, Eberhard & Schramm, Markus & Wohlschlegel, Ansgar, 2014. "The Impact of Fine Size and Uncertainty on Punishment and Deterrence: Evidence from the Laboratory," MPRA Paper 59463, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    23. repec:eee:jeborg:v:142:y:2017:i:c:p:468-481 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Public Goods; Experimental Law & Economics; Enforcement under Uncertainty;

    JEL classification:

    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods
    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law
    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • K14 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law - - - Criminal Law

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