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Volunteer's Dilemma

Andreas Diekmann ()

Journal of Conflict Resolution, 1985, vol. 29, issue 4, 605-610

Abstract: A conflict game simulating social traps in which a collective good can be provided by a volunteer is discussed and some solution concepts are analyzed. There is a greater incentive for “free riding†than for the production of the collective good at the cost of the volunteer. However, if everybody defects, all players will lose. Such a result is frequently produced by “diffusion of responsibility†as described by Darley and Latané (1968). In contrast to other social traps, a dominant strategy does not exist. Also, the mixed-equilibrium strategy yields very low payoffs. The expected gain is not greater than the payoff achieved by the nonequilibrium maximum strategy. Superrationality might be a way out of the trap. However, this concept lacks the desirable equilibrium property. Only in the free communication version of the game can a definitive answer to the question of a rational strategy be given.

Date: 1985
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