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Authority and Centrality: Power and Cooperation in Social Dilemma Networks


  • Ramalingam, Abhijit
  • Rojo Arjona, David
  • Schram, Arthur
  • Van Leeuwen, Boris


We investigate the effects of power on cooperation in repeated social dilemma settings. Groups of five players play either multi-player trust games or VCM-games on a fixed network. Power stems from having the authority to allocate funds raised through voluntary contributions by all members and/or from having a pivotal position in the network (centrality). We compare environments with and without ostracism by allowing players in some treatments to exclude others from further participation in the network. Our results show that power matters but that its effects hinge strongly on the type involved. Reminiscent of the literature on leadership, players with authority often act more cooperatively than those without such power. Nevertheless, when possible, they are quickly ostracized from the group. Thus, this kind of power is not tolerated by the powerless. In stark contrast, centrality leads to less cooperative behavior and this free riding is not punished; conditional on cooperativeness, players with power from centrality are less likely to be ostracized than those without. Hence, not only is this type of power tolerated, but so is the free riding it leads to.

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  • Ramalingam, Abhijit & Rojo Arjona, David & Schram, Arthur & Van Leeuwen, Boris, 2015. "Authority and Centrality: Power and Cooperation in Social Dilemma Networks," IAST Working Papers 15-23, Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse (IAST).
  • Handle: RePEc:tse:iastwp:29140

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    Cited by:

    1. Xu, Xue, 2018. "Experiments on cooperation, institutions, and social preferences," Other publications TiSEM d3cf4dba-b0f3-4643-a267-7, Tilburg University, School of Economics and Management.

    More about this item


    power; cooperation; networks; public goods;

    JEL classification:

    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • D02 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Institutions: Design, Formation, Operations, and Impact
    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods

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