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Starting Small: Endogenous Stakes and Rational Cooperation

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  • James Andreoni
  • Michael A. Kuhn
  • Larry Samuelson

Abstract

We report experimental results for a twice-played prisoners’ dilemma in which the players can choose the allocation of the stakes across the two periods. Our point of departure is the assumption that some (but not all) people are principled to “do the right thing,” or cooperate, as long as their opponent is sufficiently likely to do so. The presence of such types can be exploited to enhance cooperation by structuring the twice-played prisoners’ dilemma to “start small,” so that the second-stage stakes are larger (but not too much larger) than the first-stage stakes. We compare conditions where the allocation of stakes is chosen exogenously to conditions where it is chosen by the players themselves. We show that players are able to find and choose the payoff maximizing strategy of starting small in a twice-played prisoners’ dilemma, and that the salutary payoff effects of doing so are larger than those that arise when the same allocation is exogenously chosen.

Suggested Citation

  • James Andreoni & Michael A. Kuhn & Larry Samuelson, 2016. "Starting Small: Endogenous Stakes and Rational Cooperation," NBER Working Papers 21934, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:21934
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:eee:jeborg:v:147:y:2018:i:c:p:76-94 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Alp Atakan & Levent Kockesen & Elif Kubilay, 2017. "Optimal Delegation of Sequential Decisions: The Role of Communication and Reputation," Koç University-TUSIAD Economic Research Forum Working Papers 1701, Koc University-TUSIAD Economic Research Forum.
    3. Alp Atakan & Levent Kockesen & Elif Kubilay, 2018. "Starting Small to Communicate," Koç University-TUSIAD Economic Research Forum Working Papers 1805, Koc University-TUSIAD Economic Research Forum.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C92 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Group Behavior
    • D64 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Altruism; Philanthropy; Intergenerational Transfers
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification

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