International Journal of Game Theory

, Volume 22, Issue 1, pp 75–85 | Cite as

Cooperation in an asymmetric Volunteer's dilemma game theory and experimental evidence

  • Andreas Diekmann


The symmetric Volunteer's dilemma game (VOD) models a situation in which each ofN actors faces the decision of either producing a step-level collective good (action “C”) or freeriding (“D”). One player's cooperative action suffices for producing the collective good. Unilateral cooperation yields a payoffU forD-players andU-K for the cooperative player(s). However, if all actors decide for “freeriding”, each player's payoff is zero (U>K>0). In this article, an essential modification is discussed. In an asymmetric VOD, the interest in the collective good and/or, the production costs (i.e. U or K) may vary between actors. The generalized asymmetric VOD is similar to market entry games. Alternative hypotheses about the behaviour of subjects are derived from a game-theoretical analysis. They are investigated in an experimental setting. The application of the mixed Nash-equilibrium concept yields a rather counter-intuitive prediction which apparently contradicts the empirical data. The predictions of the Harsanyi-Selten-theory and Schelling's “focal point theory” are in better accordance with the data. However, they do not account for the “diffusion-of-responsibility-effect” also observable in the context of an asymmetric VOD game.


Production Cost Empirical Data Game Theory Experimental Setting Alternative Hypothesis 
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Copyright information

© Physica-Verlag 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andreas Diekmann
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of SociologyUniversity of BerneBerne 9Switzerland

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