Small Harm on an Innocent Outsider as a Lubricant of Cooperation – An Experiment
Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods; University of Bonn - Faculty of Law & Economics; Universität Osnabrück - Faculty of Law
Max Planck Society for the Advancement of the Sciences - Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods
MPI Collective Goods Preprint, No. 2012/2
Under the assumption of profit-maximization in a two players simultaneous symmetric one-shot prisoner's dilemma the fact that choosing the cooperative move imposes harm on a passive outsider is immaterial. Yet if participants hold social preferences, one might think that they are reticent to impose harm on the outsider. Our data suggest that moral intuition gets it wrong: We do not find a significant difference between the baseline (where there is no outsider) and the treatment (with an outsider) for most levels of harm. On the contrary, the externality makes participants more pessimistic and, conditional on their beliefs, participants even cooperate significantly more if cooperation imposes small harm on outsiders. This finding is consistent with recent studies showing that trying to distance oneself from the outsider, instead of not trying not to harm her, is the main motive behind cooperation.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 30
Keywords: social preferences, Conditional Cooperation, negative externalities, Beliefs, prisoner’s dilemma, efficiency
JEL Classification: D63, D01, D62, C90, D03working papers series
Date posted: February 18, 2012 ; Last revised: March 21, 2014
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