Feedback types, punishment behavior, and cooperation levels in a public-good experiment

First session of the first day at ESA 2007. I’m happy to say there are many interesting papers. My pick from the morning session is ‘Feedback Effects In Public Good Experiments With Punishment’ at
http://www.luiss.it/esa2007/programme/programme3.php?paper=131#

Here is the abstract:

“Decentralized punishments, that is, punishments carried out by individuals without the intervention of a central authority, is one way of fostering and promoting social norms. Decentralized punishments have been studied in the laboratory and shown to be effective in promoting cooperation. In this paper, I examine the effect of different feedback types on punishment behavior and cooperation levels in a public-good experiment. In one treatment, participants are informed only of the individual contributions of the other group members to the public good (contribution feedback). In a second treatment, instead of receiving information regarding contributions, participants are informed about the payoffs of the other people in their group (payoff feedback). In a third treatment, individuals receive information regarding both contributions and payoffs of the other group members (full feedback). Based on this feedback, individuals make their punishment decisions. I find that information about payoffs reduces significantly both the frequency with which punishments are observed, as well as the contribution levels. Consequently, cooperation increases over time under contribution feedback, it remains stable under full feedback, and breaks down under payoff feedback. I conjecture that the reason for these results is that information about individual payoffs promotes selfish behavior.”

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