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Group formation and cooperation in social dilemmas: A survey and meta-analytic evidence

Andrea Guido, Andrea Robbett and Rustam Romaniuc

Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 2019, vol. 159, issue C, 192-209

Abstract: We survey the growing literature on group formation in the context of three types of social dilemma games: public goods games, common pool resources, and the prisoner’s dilemma. The 62 surveyed papers study the effect of different sorting mechanisms – endogenous, endogenous with the option to play the game, and exogenous – on cooperation rates. Our survey shows that cooperators are highly sensitive to the presence of free-riders, independently of the sorting mechanism. We complement the survey with a meta-analysis showing no difference in terms of cooperation between studies implementing an endogenous and exogenous sorting. What is more, we find that it is no more likely for a cooperator to be matched with like-minded partners in endogenously formed groups than in exogenously formed groups. These observations are related. As we show in the survey, the success of a sorting method in matching like-minded individuals and the levels of cooperation are closely interlinked.

Date: 2019
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