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Conditional cooperation and group dynamics: Experimental evidence from a sequential public goods game

  • Daniel Houser

    (George Mason University)

  • Robert Kurzban

    (University of Pennsylvania)

We design a novel sequential public goods experiment to study reciprocity, or conditional cooperation. In contrast to the standard simultaneous contribution game, our sequential design provides direct evidence on how subjects condition their own contributions on the contributions of other subjects in the experiment. We develop a simple but useful behavioral-type classification procedure and use it to analyze the data from this design. Our results inform two fundamental hypotheses: (1) subjects’ types are persistent over an experiment; and (2) the types of subjects included in a group affects a group’s ability to sustain cooperation. These hypotheses are often assumed in the public goods literature, yet neither has been directly supported. We find support for both hypotheses. Moreover, we provide a simple summary statistic that, we show, predicts group cooperative dynamics remarkably well.

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Paper provided by EconWPA in its series Experimental with number 0307001.

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Date of creation: 01 Jul 2003
Date of revision: 21 Jan 2005
Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpex:0307001
Note: Type of Document - pdf; prepared on ibm pc; to print on hp;
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  1. Daniel Houser & Michael Keane & Kevin McCabe, 2004. "Behavior in a Dynamic Decision Problem: An Analysis of Experimental Evidence Using a Bayesian Type Classification Algorithm," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 72(3), pages 781-822, 05.
  2. Clark, Kenneth & Sefton, Martin, 2001. "The Sequential Prisoner's Dilemma: Evidence on Reciprocation," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 111(468), pages 51-68, January.
  3. Colin F. Camerer & Ernst Fehr, . "Measuring Social Norms and Preferences using Experimental Games: A Guide for Social Scientists," IEW - Working Papers 097, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  4. R. M. Isaac & J. M. Walker, 2010. "Group size effects in public goods provision: The voluntary contribution mechanism," Levine's Working Paper Archive 310, David K. Levine.
  5. El-Gamal, Mahmoud A. & Grether, David M., 1995. "Are People Bayesian? Uncovering Behavioral Strategies," Working Papers 919, California Institute of Technology, Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences.
  6. Daniel Houser & Joachim Winter, 2002. "How Do Behavioral Assumptions Affect Structural Inference? Evidence From A Laboratory Experiment," MEA discussion paper series 02005, Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA) at the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy.
  7. Palfrey, Thomas R & Prisbrey, Jeffrey E, 1997. "Anomalous Behavior in Public Goods Experiments: How Much and Why?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(5), pages 829-46, December.
  8. Francesco Guala & Roberto Burlando, 2002. "Conditional Cooperation: new evidence from a public goods experiment," CEEL Working Papers 0210, Cognitive and Experimental Economics Laboratory, Department of Economics, University of Trento, Italia.
  9. Herbert Gintis, 2000. "Strong Reciprocity and Human Sociality," UMASS Amherst Economics Working Papers 2000-02, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Department of Economics.
  10. Anna Gunnthorsdottir & Daniel Houser & Kevin McCabe & Holly Ameden, 2004. "Disposition, History and Contributions in Public Goods Experiments," Experimental 0401001, EconWPA.
  11. repec:att:wimass:9309 is not listed on IDEAS
  12. Rachel T. A. Croson, 2007. "Theories Of Commitment, Altruism And Reciprocity: Evidence From Linear Public Goods Games," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 45(2), pages 199-216, 04.
  13. Keser, Claudia & van Winden, Frans, 2000. " Conditional Cooperation and Voluntary Contributions to Public Goods," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 102(1), pages 23-39, March.
  14. Matthew Rabin., 1992. "Incorporating Fairness into Game Theory and Economics," Economics Working Papers 92-199, University of California at Berkeley.
  15. Congleton, Roger D. & Vanberg, Viktor J., 2001. "Help, harm or avoid? On the personal advantage of dispositions to cooperate and punish in multilateral PD games with exit," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 44(2), pages 145-167, February.
  16. Andreoni, James, 1995. "Cooperation in Public-Goods Experiments: Kindness or Confusion?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(4), pages 891-904, September.
  17. Andreoni, James & McGuire, Martin C., 1993. "Identifying the free riders : A simple algorithm for determining who will contribute to a public good," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 51(3), pages 447-454, July.
  18. Fischbacher, Urs & Gachter, Simon & Fehr, Ernst, 2001. "Are people conditionally cooperative? Evidence from a public goods experiment," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 71(3), pages 397-404, June.
  19. Daniel Houser & Robert Kurzban, 2002. "Revisiting Kindness and Confusion in Public Goods Experiments," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(4), pages 1062-1069, September.
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