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Strategic Behavior in Public Good Games: When Partners Really Become Strangers

By Joep Sonnemans, Arthur Schram and Theo Offerman


We use a new design to (re)examine the occurrence of strategic behavior in voluntary contributions mechanism experiments. Subjects are in groups that remain constant for a number of periods before they change. The change is public knowledge and always consists of one member switching to another group. Moreover, everyone knows that this individual will not be grouped with any of the members again. In this sense 'partners' really become 'strangers'. We find considerable evidence of strategic behavior in these relatively simple games. Subjects who leave their group contribute less than in the previous period and less than in the next period in their new group. Contribution levels decline with the number of periods remaining for the group. The results can be explained by the occurrence of conditional cooperators, who are willing to contribute if and only if enough others do the same. The presence of these subjects elicits strategic (forward looking) behavior from others. December 1996 Ad..

Year: 1996
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