Punishment Despite Reasonable Doubt - A Public Goods Experiment with Uncertainty Over Contributions

32 Pages Posted: 14 Apr 2010  

Kristoffel R. Grechenig

Max-Planck-Institute for Research on Collective Goods

Andreas Nicklisch

University of Hamburg - School of Business, Economics and Social Sciences; Max Planck Society for the Advancement of the Sciences - Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods

Christian Thöni

University of Lausanne

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Date Written: April 1, 2010

Abstract

Under a great variety of legally relevant circumstances, people have to decide whether or not to cooperate, when they face an incentive to defect. The law sometimes provides people with sanctioning mechanisms to enforce pro-social behavior. Experimental evidence on voluntary public good provision shows that the option to punish others substantially improves cooperation, even if punishment is costly. However, these studies focus on situations where there is no uncertainty about others' behavior. We investigate punishment in a world with “reasonable doubt” about others' contributions. Interestingly, people reveal a high willingness to punish even if their information about cooperation rates is inaccurate, or noisy. If there is some non-trivial degree of noise, unishment (1) cannot maintain high contributions and (2) reduces welfare even below the level of a setting without punishment. Our findings suggest that sufficient information accuracy about others' behavior is crucial for he efficiency of sanction mechanisms. If a situation is characterized by low information accuracy, precluding sanctions can be optimal.

Keywords: Public Goods, Experimental Law & Economics, Enforcement under Uncertainty

JEL Classification: H41, K42, C91, D03, K14

Suggested Citation

Grechenig, Kristoffel R. and Nicklisch, Andreas and Thöni, Christian, Punishment Despite Reasonable Doubt - A Public Goods Experiment with Uncertainty Over Contributions (April 1, 2010). MPI Collective Goods Preprint, No. 2010/11. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1586775 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1586775

Kristoffel R. Grechenig (Contact Author)

Max-Planck-Institute for Research on Collective Goods ( email )

Kurt-Schumacher-Str. 10
D-53113 Bonn, 53113
Germany
+49 228 91416-51 (Phone)
+49 228 91416-851 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://sites.google.com/site/kristoffelgrechenig

Andreas Nicklisch

University of Hamburg - School of Business, Economics and Social Sciences ( email )

Von-Melle-Park 5
Hamburg, D-20354
Germany

Max Planck Society for the Advancement of the Sciences - Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods ( email )

Kurt-Schumacher-Str. 10
D-53113 Bonn, 53113
Germany
49 228 9141679 (Phone)
49 228 9141655 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.coll.mpg.de/nicklisch.html

Christian Thöni

University of Lausanne ( email )

Lausanne, Vaud CH-1015
Switzerland

HOME PAGE: http://https://sites.google.com/site/christianthoeni/

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