The Stability of Conditional Cooperation: Egoism Trumps Reciprocity in Social Dilemmas

42 Pages Posted: 11 Oct 2019

See all articles by Luciano Andreozzi

Luciano Andreozzi

University of Trento - Department of Economics and Management

Matteo Ploner

Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna di Pisa

Ali Seyhun Saral

Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods

Date Written: October 2019

Abstract

An often-replicated result in the experimental literature on social dilemmas is that a large share of subjects reveal conditionally cooperative preferences. Cooperation generated by this type of preferences is notoriously unstable, as individuals reduce their contributions to the public good in reaction to other subjects free-riding. This has led to the widely-shared conclusion that cooperation observed in experiments (and its collapse) is mostly driven by imperfect reciprocity. In this study, we explore the possibility that reciprocally cooperative preferences may themselves be unstable. We do so by observing the evolution of subjects’ preferences in an anonymously repeated social dilemma. Our results show that a significant fraction of reciprocally cooperative subjects become selfish in the course of the experiment, while the reverse is rarely observed. We are thus driven to the conclusion that egoism is more resistant to exposure to social dilemmas than reciprocity.

Keywords: reciprocity, conditional cooperation, strategy method

JEL Classification: C72, C91

Suggested Citation

Andreozzi, Luciano and Ploner, Matteo and Saral, Ali Seyhun, The Stability of Conditional Cooperation: Egoism Trumps Reciprocity in Social Dilemmas (October 2019). MPI Collective Goods Discussion Paper, No. 2019/12. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3468176 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3468176

Luciano Andreozzi

University of Trento - Department of Economics and Management ( email )

Via Inama 5
Trento, I-38100
Italy

Matteo Ploner

Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna di Pisa ( email )

Biblioteca Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna
Piazza Martiri della Liberta, n. 33
Pisa, 56127
Italy

Ali Seyhun Saral (Contact Author)

Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods ( email )

Kurt Schumacher Str 10
Bonn, 53113
Germany

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