Theory and Decision

, Volume 75, Issue 1, pp 101-116

First online:

Why do groups cooperate more than individuals to reduce risks?

  • Min GongAffiliated withAltisource TM Email author 
  • , Jonathan BaronAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania
  • , Howard KunreutherAffiliated withWharton School, University of Pennsylvania

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Previous research has discovered a curious phenomenon: groups cooperate less than individuals in a deterministic prisoner’s dilemma game, but cooperate more than individuals when uncertainty is introduced into the game. We conducted two studies to examine three possible processes that might drive groups to be more cooperative than individuals in reducing risks: group risk concern, group cooperation expectation, and pressure to conform to social norms. We found that ex post guilt aversion and ex-post blame avoidance cause group members to be more risk concerned than individuals under uncertainty. These concerns drive groups to choose the cooperation (and risk-reduction) strategy more frequently than individuals. Groups also have higher cooperation expectations for their corresponding groups than individuals have for their corresponding individuals. We found no evidence of pressure to conform to social norms driving groups to be more cooperative than individuals.


Group decision Uncertainty Risk Cooperation Experimental economics Interdependent security

JEL Classification