Previous studies suggest that whether individuals perceive a behavior as fair depends on how prevalent it is in the population. Using a prisoner dilemma game experiment, we test whether informing individuals of a higher proportion of cooperators in the population affects the legitimacy of free riding and changes their punishment of free riders. Different from previous studies, we use the strategy method to obtain each participant’s complete punishment strategy. We find co-existence of four different punishment types and show that no single existing theory captures the rich heterogeneity in punishment behavior.
Norm-based Resentment and the Evolution of Cooperative Norms. [PDF]
This paper investigates how cooperative norms emerge and evolve over time. I construct a stochastic dynamic model based on the idea that cooperation between strangers is sustained by endogenous social norms. The model shows how cooperation and punishment of defectors co-evolve. Recent empirical studies find that (1) cooperation between strangers is positively correlated with law enforcement across societies, and that (2) cooperation is higher in large, modern societies with higher degrees of market integration compared to small-scale societies. The model explains these regularities. Specifically, the ability to “vote with feet” is critical in generating the high level of cooperation in large, modern societies.
Work in Progress
Social Competition and Economic Consequences: Theory and Experiment, with Michael Muthukrishna (LSE) and Robin Schimmelpfennig (LSE). [SLIDES presented on the Inaugural Cultural Evolution Society Conference, 2017]
First, we show theoretically that social competition is a double-edged sword: on the one hand, it might increase the incentive to work more in order to earn more income than others, which would improve productivity; on the other, however, it might lead to dramatic conspicuous consumption and conflicts between individuals, which would suppress productivity. The overall effect of social competition on productivity thus depends on the trade-off between the two. Then, we design an experiment to test the theory. We have recently collected the pilot data, and the preliminary analysis confirms our predictions.