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Punishment History and Spillover Effects: A Laboratory Investigation of Behavior in a Social Dilemma

David Dickinson, E. Dutcher and Cortney Rodet ()

No 11-02, Working Papers from Department of Economics, Appalachian State University

Abstract: Punishment has been shown to be an effective reinforcement mechanism. Intentional or not, punishment will likely generate spillover effects that extend beyond one’s immediate decision environment, and these spillovers are not as well understood. We seek to understand these secondary spillover effects in a controlled lab setting using a standard social dilemma: the voluntary contributions mechanism game. We find that spillovers from punishment lead to either more or less cooperative behavior depending on the history of play. If subjects have direct experience with a punishment mechanism, they will contribute more to the public good after observing others’ punishment. The reverse is true of those who observe others’ punishment but have no exposure to direct experience with punishment. Key Words:

Date: 2011
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