The Behavioral Logic of Collective Action: Partisans Cooperate and Punish More than Non-Partisans

Political Psychology, Forthcoming

34 Pages Posted: 26 Sep 2007 Last revised: 22 Oct 2009

See all articles by Oleg Smirnov

Oleg Smirnov

State University of New York (SUNY) - Department of Political Science

Christopher T. Dawes

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Department of Political Science

James H. Fowler

UC San Diego Division of Social Sciences; UC San Diego School of Medicine

Tim Johnson

Atkinson Graduate School of Management, Willamette University

Richard McElreath

University of California, Davis

Date Written: September 25, 2007

Abstract

Why do individuals engage in personally costly, partisan activities that benefit others? If individuals act according to rational self-interest, then partisan activity occurs only when the benefits of that activity exceed its costs. However, laboratory experiments suggest that many people are willing to contribute to public goods and to punish those who do not contribute - even when these activities are personally costly and when members of the experimental group are completely anonymous. We hypothesize that these individuals, called strong reciprocators, underlie the capacity of political parties to organize competition for scarce resources and the production of public goods. To test this hypothesis, we conducted an experiment that includes a random income game with costly income alteration and a standard public goods game with costly punishment. These games allow us to gauge participants' willingness to contribute to public goods and to engage in the costly punishment of free-riders. The results show that partisans are more likely than nonpartisans to contribute to public goods and to engage in costly punishment. Thus, inherent tastes for cooperation and sanctioning help resolve the paradox of party participation.

Suggested Citation

Smirnov, Oleg and Dawes, Christopher T. and Fowler, James H. and Johnson, Tim and McElreath, Richard, The Behavioral Logic of Collective Action: Partisans Cooperate and Punish More than Non-Partisans (September 25, 2007). Political Psychology, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1017065

Oleg Smirnov (Contact Author)

State University of New York (SUNY) - Department of Political Science ( email )

Stony Brook, 11794-4392
United States

Christopher T. Dawes

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Department of Political Science ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
Code 0521
La Jolla, CA 92093-0521
United States

HOME PAGE: http://dss.ucsd.edu/~cdawes/

James H. Fowler

UC San Diego Division of Social Sciences ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
Code 0521
La Jolla, CA 92093-0521
United States

HOME PAGE: http://jhfowler.ucsd.edu

UC San Diego School of Medicine ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
MC 0507
La Jolla, CA 92093
United States

HOME PAGE: http://jhfowler.ucsd.edu

Tim Johnson

Atkinson Graduate School of Management, Willamette University ( email )

900 State Street
Salem, OR 97301
United States

Richard McElreath

University of California, Davis

One Shields Avenue
Davis, CA 95616
United States

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