Rebecca McDonald (University of Warwick), 25 May 2017, 4:30pm, NUBS 1.13

SpeakerRebecca McDonaldUniversity of Warwick

Title: Cooperation in Public Goods Games Predicts Behaviour in Binary Dilemmas with Matched Incentives

Date & Time: 25 May 2017 (Thursday), 4:30-5:45 pm

Venue:  Newcastle University Business School, 1.13

              5 Barrack Road, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 4SE



A key development in the study of cooperation has been the identification of behavioural subtypes. This is achieved by categorizing individuals as “co-operators” or “defectors” using simple binary dilemma (BD) games like the prisoner’s dilemma, or as “conditional co-operators”, “free-riders”, or “triangle responders” using public goods (PG) games. We adapt and link these tasks to provide new insights into the nature of pro-sociality. Participants completed PG game tasks and BD tasks, each under three different incentive structures which were matched across the task types. The experiment allowed us to address two questions. The first asks whether the classic subtypes are exhaustive, or else whether other responder types exist that are only apparent in PG games with non-linear incentive structures. We develop an alternative categorization method that can detect these. The second question asks how well behaviour can be predicted across tasks. Although we find significant cross-task predictability and stability in subjects’ average cooperation levels, the picture is a little messy, with a substantial minority of responses (26%) demonstrating unambiguous preference reversals across tasks. We suggest that pro-sociality is best described as an individual level trait, similar to risk aversion in gamble tasks.

Last modified: Wed, 10 May 2017 13:24:34 BST