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The Stability of Conditional Cooperation: Egoism Trumps Reciprocity in Social Dilemmas

Author

Listed:
  • Luciano Andreozzi

    () (Department of Economics, University of Trento)

  • Matteo Ploner

    () (Department of Economics, University of Trento)

  • Ali Seyhun Saral

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

Abstract

An often-replicated result in the experimental literature on social dilemmas is that a large share of subjects reveal conditionally cooperative preferences. Cooperation generated by this type of preferences is notoriously unstable, as individuals reduce their contributions to the public good in reaction to other subjects free-riding. This has led to the widely-shared conclusion that cooperation observed in experiments (and its collapse) is mostly driven by imperfect reciprocity. In this study, we explore the possibility that reciprocally cooperative preferences may themselves be unstable. We do so by observing the evolution of subjects’ preferences in an anonymously repeated social dilemma. Our results show that a significant fraction of reciprocally cooperative subjects become selfish in the course of the experiment, while the reverse is rarely observed. We are thus driven to the conclusion that egoism is more resistant to exposure to social dilemmas than reciprocity.

Suggested Citation

  • Luciano Andreozzi & Matteo Ploner & Ali Seyhun Saral, 2019. "The Stability of Conditional Cooperation: Egoism Trumps Reciprocity in Social Dilemmas," Discussion Paper Series of the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods 2019_12, Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods.
  • Handle: RePEc:mpg:wpaper:2019_12
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Theo Offerman & Joep Sonnemans & Gijs Van De Kuilen & Peter P. Wakker, 2009. "A Truth Serum for Non-Bayesians: Correcting Proper Scoring Rules for Risk Attitudes ," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 76(4), pages 1461-1489.
    2. Bates, Douglas & Mächler, Martin & Bolker, Ben & Walker, Steve, 2015. "Fitting Linear Mixed-Effects Models Using lme4," Journal of Statistical Software, Foundation for Open Access Statistics, vol. 67(i01).
    3. Urs Fischbacher, 2007. "z-Tree: Zurich toolbox for ready-made economic experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 10(2), pages 171-178, June.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    reciprocity; conditional cooperation; strategy method;

    JEL classification:

    • C72 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Noncooperative Games
    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior

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