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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 of Nottingham)

Abstract

We study the effect of group size on cooperation in voluntary contribution mechanism games. As in previous experiments, we study four- and eight-person groups in high and low marginal per capita return (MPCR) conditions. We find a positive effect of group size in the low MPCR condition, as in previous experiments. However, in the high MPCR condition we observe a negative group size effect. We extend the design to investigate two- and three-person groups in the high MPCR condition, and find that cooperation is highest of all in two-person groups. The findings in the high MPCR condition are consistent with those from n-person prisoner’s dilemma and oligopoly experiments that suggest it is more difficult to sustain cooperation in larger groups. The findings from the low MPCR condition suggest that this effect can be overridden. In particular, when cooperation is low other factors, such as considerations of the social benefits of contributing (which increase with group size), may dominate any negative group size effect.

Suggested Citation

  • Daniele Nosenzo & Simone Quercia & Martin Sefton, 2013. "Cooperation in Small Groups: The Effect of Group Size," Discussion Papers 2013-05, The Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics, School of Economics, University of Nottingham.
  • Handle: RePEc:not:notcdx:2013-05
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    2. Hiroki Ozono & Yoshio Kamijo & Kazumi Shimizu, 2015. "Institutionalize reciprocity to overcome the public goods provision problem," Working Papers SDES-2015-19, Kochi University of Technology, School of Economics and Management, revised Jul 2015.
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    8. Chen, Yefeng & Jiang, Shuguang & Villeval, Marie Claire, 2016. "The Tragedy of Corruption," IZA Discussion Papers 10175, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    9. Gallier, Carlo & Goeschl, Timo & Kesternich, Martin & Lohse, Johannes & Reif, Christiane & Römer, Daniel, 2017. "Leveling up? An inter-neighborhood experiment on parochialism and the efficiency of multi-level public goods provision," Working Papers 0630, University of Heidelberg, Department of Economics.
    10. Duffy, John & Xie, Huan, 2016. "Group size and cooperation among strangers," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, pages 55-74.
    11. Enrico Spolaore, 2014. "The Political Economy of European Integration," Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University 0778, Department of Economics, Tufts University.
    12. Lugovskyy, Volodymyr & Puzzello, Daniela & Sorensen, Andrea & Walker, James & Williams, Arlington, 2017. "An experimental study of finitely and infinitely repeated linear public goods games," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, pages 286-302.
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    16. Wolff, Irenaeus, 2017. "What are the equilibria in public-good experiments?," Economics Letters, Elsevier, pages 83-85.
    17. Alger, Ingela & Weibull, Jörgen W., 2016. "Morality: evolutionary foundations and policy implications," TSE Working Papers 16-702, Toulouse School of Economics (TSE).
    18. Irenaeus Wolff, 2016. "What are the equilibria in linear public-good experiments?," TWI Research Paper Series 105, Thurgauer Wirtschaftsinstitut, Universit�t Konstanz.
    19. Feltovich, Nick & Grossman, Philip J., 2015. "How does the effect of pre-play suggestions vary with group size? Experimental evidence from a threshold public-good game," European Economic Review, Elsevier, pages 263-280.
    20. Antoni Bosch-Domènech & Joaquim Silvestre, 2015. "The role of frames, numbers and risk in the frequency of cooperation," Economics Working Papers 1501, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
    21. Duffy, John & Xie, Huan, 2016. "Group size and cooperation among strangers," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, pages 55-74.
    22. Hiroki Ozono & Yoshio Kamijo & Kazumi Shimizu, 2015. "Institutionalize reciprocity to overcome the public goods provision problem," Working Papers 1509, Waseda University, Faculty of Political Science and Economics.
    23. Graf Lambsdorff, Johann & Giamattei, Marcus & Werner, Katharina & Schubert, Manuel, 2016. "Emotion vs. cognition - Experimental evidence on cooperation from the 2014 Soccer World Cup," Passauer Diskussionspapiere, Volkswirtschaftliche Reihe V-72-16, University of Passau, Faculty of Business and Economics.
    24. Ye-Feng Chen & Shu-Guang Jiang & Marie Claire Villeval, 2015. "The Tragedy of Corruption. Corruption as a social dilemma," Working Papers 1531, Groupe d'Analyse et de Théorie Economique Lyon St-Étienne (GATE Lyon St-Étienne), Université de Lyon.
    25. Joachim Weimann & Jeannette Brosig-Koch & Timo Heinrich & Heike Hennig-Schmidt & Claudia Keser & Christian Stahr, 2014. "An Explanation of (First Round) Contributions in Public-Good Experiments," CESifo Working Paper Series 5039, CESifo Group Munich.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    voluntary contribution mechanism; cooperation; group size;

    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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