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Cooperation and the common enemy effect

Author

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  • K.J.M. De Jaegher
  • B. Hoyer

Abstract

This paper presents a game-theoretic rationale for the beneficial effect of a common enemy on cooperation. In a defence game against a common natural threat, the value of the public good of defence is equal to the sum of the players’ defensive efforts. The game therefore takes the form of a prisoner’s dilemma, leading to free-riding. When the same defence game is played against a common enemy, the value of the public good of defence is equal to the smallest defensive effort. The game now takes the form of a stag hunt, so that a cooperative equilibrium becomes possible. For this reason, an informed and benevolent government may not want to inform the public that it is facing a common natural threat rather than a common enemy. At the same time, the common enemy has an incentive to mimic nature, and perform only random rather than targeted attacks.

Suggested Citation

  • K.J.M. De Jaegher & B. Hoyer, 2012. "Cooperation and the common enemy effect," Working Papers 12-24, Utrecht School of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:use:tkiwps:1224
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Britta Hoyer & Stephanie Rosenkranz, 2018. "Determinants of Equilibrium Selection in Network Formation: An Experiment," Games, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 9(4), pages 1-25, November.
    2. Djawadi, Behnud Mir & Endres, Angelika & Hoyer, Britta & Recker, Sonja, 2019. "Network formation and disruption - An experiment are equilibrium networks too complex?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 157(C), pages 708-734.

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    Keywords

    Common Enemy Effect; Defence Games; Prisoner’s Dilemma; Stag Hunt;
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