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Rationality and commitment in voluntary cooperation: Insights from experimental economics

By Simon Gächter and Christian Thöni

Abstract

The rationality of voluntary cooperation Cooperation problems arise when individual incentives and social optimality diverge. This tension has intrigued social scientists and philosophers for decades. In this chapter we look at the cooperation problem from the viewpoint of experimental economics, a subfield of economics which studies decision-making under controlled laboratory conditions and under real monetary incentives. 2Years of careful experimentation have led to a body of results, which may shed new light on old philosophical questions, and on the foundations of the behavioural sciences. In particular our results will shed light on selfishness as one important foundational assumption of the behavioural sciences. The selfishness assumption has long been criticized (by Sen 1977, for instance, in a highly influential article). Yet only recently experimentalists have started to systematically scrutinize the selfishness assumption. We will discuss some selected evidence in this chapter on how people solve the cooperation problem and to what extent people’s cooperation behaviour can be explained by their (non-)selfish preferences

Publisher: University Press
Year: 2007
OAI identifier: oai:CiteSeerX.psu:10.1.1.180.1772
Provided by: CiteSeerX
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