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Can we manage first impressions in cooperation problems? An experiment

  • Christoph Engel


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

  • Sebastian Kube


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

  • Michael Kurschilgen


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

We study how cooperative behavior reacts to selective (favorable or unfavorable) pre-play information about the cooperativeness of other, unrelated groups within an experimental framework that is sufficiently rich for conflicting behavioral norms to emerge. We find that cooperation crucially depends on pre-play information, coinciding with a change in initial beliefs. Over time, behavior within both types of groups becomes increasingly homogeneous, indicating the formation of two rather different social norms, depending on whether pre-play information was favorable or unfavorable. In addition, we find unfavorable information to substantially reduce the effectiveness of peer punishment. For these differences to emerge it is immaterial whether each member or only one member of a four-person group receives the pre-play information.

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Paper provided by Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods in its series Working Paper Series of the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods with number 2011_05.

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Date of creation: Mar 2011
Date of revision: May 2014
Handle: RePEc:mpg:wpaper:2011_05
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