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Managing expectations: How selective information affects cooperation and punishment in social dilemma games

Christoph Engel (), Sebastian Kube and Michael Kurschilgen

Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 2021, vol. 187, issue C, 111-136

Abstract: Information has a long history of being used with the intention to influence people's behavior, particularly in situations where people are likely to condition their own behavior on what they expect most others to do. We experimentally study how selective (favorable or unfavorable) information about past cooperativeness of unrelated groups affects cooperation in problems of collective action. We find cooperation to crucially depend on pre-play information, coinciding with a change in initial beliefs. In addition, we find unfavorable information to substantially reduce the effectiveness of peer punishment. This prevents groups that start off on the wrong foot from recovering over time. The impact of information does not rely on information being public or private. Yet it critically relies on the information being surprising. In a cooperative environment, it is unfavorable information that matters; in an uncooperative environment, it is favorable information.

Keywords: Information; Cooperation; Sanctions; Expectations; Surprisingness; Experiment (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: C90 D63 D80 H41 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2021
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DOI: 10.1016/j.jebo.2021.04.029

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Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization is currently edited by Houser, D. and Puzzello, D.

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