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Factors of cooperative behavior

The Head of the Laboratory for Experimental and Behavioural Economics, Associate professor of ICEF PhD Alexis Belianin made a presentation “Factors of cooperative behaviour in experimental games” within the scientific seminar on 12th May. Besides the research workers of the International Scientifical-Educational Laboratory of Socio-Cultural Research and the guests of the seminar the research workers of the Laboratory of Comparative Social Studies from St. Petersburg took part in videoconference.

Factors of cooperative behaviour are of interest to the economists, especially when this behaviour is disequilibrium (e.g. investment game, trust game, ultimatum game, public goods game). Punishments (threaten, expression of disapproval) of those who free-ride in the public goods game are known to increase the degree of cooperativeness. The interesting fact is that sometimes players punish not only those who contributed less, (free-riders - prosocial punishment), but also those who conributed more than they did (spiteful, or antisocial punishment). Middle East, Russia and Eastern Europe are world leaders in spite.

There are 6 possible motives for punishment within Belianin’s classification: ‘Availability’ (the Chekhov motive) - presence of punishment option is suggestive in itself; ‘Tolerance’ (the Tjutchev motive) - culturally-defined punishment is something ‘customary’ and ‘acceptable’; ‘Competitiveness’ - punishment as an efficient way to improve own relative standing in the group; ‘Preemption’ - penalizing because one expects penalties from the others; ‘Upset’ - negative feeling at what the others have contributed, leading to the desire for retaliation; ‘Spite per se’ - genuine disapproval of those who behave pro-socially.

A. Belianin told about design of the experiment. It consisted of two single-shot games: VCM without punishment, followed by VCM with punishment. There were groups of 4 players. After each  contributions stage, participants observe contributions and payoffs of all groupmates. After punishment stage, subjects in the low cost of punishment sessions could purchase insurance against punishment. Participants: 247 full-time and part-time students from Moscow (75), Perm (76) and Tomsk (96) (sample to be completed). Average payoff: 208 RuR.

It was shown that 56% of players punished at least once. The new result was that spiteful punishments are typically more serial than prosocial (uniform strategy). In the ex post questionnaire, over 80% of spiteful punishers report desire to increase their relative standing as the main motive for punishment (competitive motive). 37% of prosocial and 83% of spiteful punishers have relocated their funds from punishment to insurance at the last stage, suggesting that preemption as another reason for ‘spite’. Prosocial punishments are caused by upset: 1) differences in contributions and 2) over-contribution of the punisher relatively to his/her normative group standard.

Behavioural model of punishment motives were built on the base of the experimental results. The main result of the experiment so far is classification of punishment categories. The first category is ‘Fair prosocial’ (15%): punishments motivated by low contributions of the punished relative to the group standard. Punishers of the first category believe they are on their right, punish by a lot, and almost do not insure. Punishers of the second category (‘Timid prosocial’ – 58%) are fairness motivated, but afraid of expression for fear of preemption and/or cost concerns. Their punishment is low, insurance yet lower. The third category (‘Jealous spite’ – 17%) are afraid of being exploited by the society, try to decrease payoffs of more successful players, but not at own cost. Both punishments and insurance are low. Punishers of the fourth category (‘Active spite’ – 12%) are motivated by competitiveness, but also very afraid of preemption: use maximal punishments (10 in 100% cases) and insurance.

In conclusion A. Belianin said that punishment in PG context at least should not always be interpreted as a revelation of dissatisfaction with contributions of the other players: there is a variety of competing explanations. These results suggest a multiplicity of principles on which ‘punishment’ behaviour may rest. In Russia, these were quite heterogeneous, while in Western Europe, for instance, ‘spiteful’ punishments are minor. Decomposition of punishment motives may be interesting and important for the diagnosis of the state of the respective societies.

Presentation

Olga Pavlenko
Trainee researcher