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Water Cooler Ostracism: Social Exclusion as a Punishment Mechanism

Brent Davis and David Johnson

Eastern Economic Journal, 2015, vol. 41, issue 1, 126-151

Abstract: Within social situations individuals can be punished with social ostracism. Ostracized individuals are removed from social aspects of the group but remain formal members. Social ostracism may occur in the workplace when workers produce a joint good among their inputs. Since workers are homogeneous, no worker has the ability to unilaterally punish free-riding behavior. Yet, the group as a whole has the capacity to punish free-riding group members with social punishments. We examine the effectiveness of social ostracism as a punishment for free-riding. We find that social ostracism helps maintain cooperation but only after prior experience without possible social punishment.

Date: 2015
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