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Cooperation in Small Groups: The Effect of Group Size

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  • Daniele Nosenzo

    (School of Economics, University of Nottingham)

  • Simone Quercia

    (School of Economics, University of Nottingham)

  • Martin Sefton

    (School of Economics, University Nottingham)

Abstract

Previous experiments have found a moderate, positive effect of group size on cooperation in voluntary contribution mechanism (VCM) games. This effect has been typically observed in experiments with groups of size 4 or more, and contrasts with results from n-person prisoner’s dilemma and oligopoly experiments where group size has a negative effect on cooperation. In an attempt to reconcile these findings, we study VCM contributions in smaller groups. We conjectured that in groups of four or more players considerations about the social benefits of contributing, which increase with group size, may dominate any negative effect arising from the difficulties of cooperating in large groups. The negative effects of group size may instead be more evident in smaller groups. We test this conjecture in an experiment where we compare 2- 3- and 4-person VCM games. We find that contributions are highest in groups of two players and lowest in groups of three. This U-shaped contributions pattern suggests that offsetting positive and negative effects operate in VCM games.

Suggested Citation

  • Daniele Nosenzo & Simone Quercia & Martin Sefton, 2012. "Cooperation in Small Groups: The Effect of Group Size," Discussion Papers 2012-17, The Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics, School of Economics, University of Nottingham.
  • Handle: RePEc:not:notcdx:2012-17
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    voluntary contribution mechanism; cooperation; group size;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C72 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Noncooperative Games
    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods

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