Experimental Economics

, Volume 20, Issue 1, pp 44–69

Strong, bold, and kind: self-control and cooperation in social dilemmas

  • Martin G. Kocher
  • Peter Martinsson
  • Kristian Ove R. Myrseth
  • Conny E. Wollbrant
Original Paper

Abstract

We develop a model that relates self-control to cooperation patterns in social dilemmas, and we test the model in a laboratory public goods experiment. As predicted, we find a robust association between stronger self-control and higher levels of cooperation, and the association is at its strongest when the decision maker’s risk aversion is low and the cooperation levels of others high. We interpret the pattern as evidence for the notion that individuals may experience an impulse to act in self-interest—and that cooperative behavior benefits from self-control. Free-riders differ from other contributor types only in their tendency not to have identified a self-control conflict in the first place.

Keywords

Experiment Public good Self-control Cooperation Risk 

JEL

C91 D03 H40 

Supplementary material

10683_2015_9475_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (338 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 339 kb)
10683_2015_9475_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (65 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (PDF 66 kb)

References

  1. Aaker, J., Drolet, A., & Griffin, D. (2008). Recalling mixed emotions: How did I feel again? Journal of Consumer Research, 35, 268–278.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Achtziger, A., Alós-Ferrer, C., & Wagner, A. K. (2015). Money, depletion, and prosociality in the dictator game. Journal of Neuroscience, Psychology, and Economics, 8, 1–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Ainslie, G. (1992). Picoeconomics: The strategic interaction of successive motivational states within the person. Studies in rationality and social change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Alós-Ferrer, C., & Strack, F. (2014). From dual processes to multiple selves: Implications for economic behavior. Journal of Economic Psychology, 41, 1–11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Ambrus, A., & Pathak, P. (2011). Cooperation over finite horizons: A theory and experiments. Journal of Public Economics, 95, 500–512.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Anderson, S., Goeree, J., & Holt, C. (1998). A theoretical analysis of altruism and decision error in public goods games. Journal of Public Economics, 70, 297–323.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Andreoni, J. (1988). Why free ride?: Strategies and learning in public goods experiments. Journal of Public Economics, 37, 291–304.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Andreoni, J. (1990). Impure altruism and donations to public goods: A theory of warm-glow giving. Economic Journal, 100, 464–477.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Andreoni, J. (1995). Cooperation in public goods experiments: Kindness or confusion? American Economic Review, 85, 891–904.Google Scholar
  10. Andreoni, J., Rao, J. M., & Trachtman, H. (2011). Avoiding the ask: A field experiment on altruism, empathy, and charitable giving. Working Paper, UC San Diego.Google Scholar
  11. Ayduk, O., Mendoza-Denton, R., Mischel, W., Downey, G., Peake, P. K., & Rodriguez, M. (2000). Regulating the interpersonal self: Strategic self-regulation for coping with rejection sensitivity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 79, 776–792.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Battaglini, M., Bénebou, R., & Tirole, J. (2005). Self-control in peer groups. Journal of Economic Theory, 123, 105–134.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Bénabou, R., & Tirole, J. (2002). Self-confidence and personal motivation. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 117, 871–915.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Bénabou, R., & Tirole, J. (2004). Willpower and personal rules. Journal of Political Economy, 112, 848–886.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Bodner, R., & Prelec, D. (2003). Self-signaling and diagnostic utility in everyday decision making. In I. Brocas & J. Carrillo (Eds.), Collected essays in psychology and economics (Vol. I, pp. 105–123). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Boyce, C., Czajkowski, M., Hanley, N., Noussair, C., Townsend, M., & Tucker, S. (2015). The effects of emotions on preferences and choices for public goods. In Working Papers 2015-08, University of St. Andrews.Google Scholar
  17. Brekke, K. A., Kverndokk, S., & Nyborg, K. (2003). An economic model of moral motivation. Journal of Public Economics, 87, 1967–1983.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Burks, S. V., Carpenter, J. P., Goette, L., & Rustichini, A. (2009). Cognitive skills affect economic preferences, strategic behavior, and job attachment. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106, 7745–7750.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Chaudhuri, A. (2011). Sustaining cooperation in laboratory public goods experiments: A selective survey of the literature. Experimental Economics, 14, 47–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Cornellisen, G., Dewitte, S., & Warlop, L. (2011). Are social value orientations expressed automatically? Decision making in the dictator game. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 37, 1080–1090.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Croson, R. (2007). Theories of commitment, altruism, and reciprocity: Evidence from linear public good games. Economic Inquiry, 45, 199–216.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Curry, O. S., Price, M. E., & Price, J. G. (2008). Patience is a virtue: Cooperative people have lower discount rates. Personality and Individual Differences, 44, 780–785.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Dickinson, D. L., & Masclet, D. (2015). Emotion venting and punishment in public good experiments. Journal of Public Economics, 122, 55–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Eigsti, I., Zayas, V., Mischel, W., Shoda, Y., Ayduk, O., Dadlani, M. B., et al. (2006). Predictive cognitive control from preschool to late adolescence and young adulthood. Psychological Science, 17, 478–484.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Fehr, E., & Leibbrandt, A. (2011). A field study on cooperativeness and impatience in the tragedy of the commons. Journal of Public Economics, 95, 1144–1155.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Fehr, E., & Schmidt, K. (1999). A theory of fairness, competition and cooperation. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 114, 817–868.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Fehr, E., & Schmidt, K. M. (2006). The economics of fairness, reciprocity and altruism—experimental evidence and new theories. In S.-C. Kolm & Y. J. Mercier (Eds.), Handbook on the economics of giving, reciprocity and altruism (pp. 615–691). Amsterdam: Elsevier.Google Scholar
  28. Figuières, C., Masclet, D., & Willinger, M. (2013). Weak moral motivation leads to the decline of voluntary contributions. Journal of Public Economic Theory, 15, 745–772.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Fischbacher, U. (2007). z-Tree: Zurich toolbox for ready-made economic experiments. Experimental Economics, 10, 171–178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Fischbacher, U., & Gächter, S. (2010). Social preferences, beliefs, and the dynamics of free riding in public good experiments. American Economic Review, 100, 541–556.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Fischbacher, U., Gächter, S., & Fehr, E. (2001). Are people conditionally cooperative? Evidence from a public goods experiment. Economic Letters, 71, 397–404.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Fudenberg, D., & Levine, D. (2006). A dual self model of impulse control. American Economic Review, 96, 1449–1476.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Gächter, S. (2007). Conditional cooperation. Behavioral regularities from the lab and the field and their policy implications. In B. Frey & A. Stutzer (Eds.), Economics and psychology. A promising new cross-disciplinary field (pp. 19–50). Cambridge: MIT Press. CESifo Seminar Series.Google Scholar
  34. Gächter, S., & Renner, E. (2010). The effects of (incentivized) belief elicitation in public goods experiments. Experimental Economics, 13, 364–377.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Greiner, B. (2004). An online recruitment system for economic experiments. In K. Kremer & V. Macho (Eds.), Forschung und wissenschaftliches Rechnen 2003 (pp. 79–93). Göttingen: GWDG Bericht 63.Google Scholar
  36. Gul, F., & Pesendorfer, W. (2001). Temptation and self-control. Econometrica, 69, 1403–1436.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Harsanyi, J. (1980). Rule utilitarianism, rights, obligations and the theory of rational behavior. Theory and Decision, 12, 115–133.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Hauge, K. E., Brekke, K. A., Johansson, L-O., Johansson-Stenman, O., & Svedsäter, H. (2009). Are social preferences skin deep? Dictators under cognitive load. Working Paper in Economics 371, University of Gothenburg.Google Scholar
  39. Herrmann, B., & Thöni, C. (2009). Measuring conditional cooperation: A replication study in Russia. Experimental Economics, 12, 87–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Holt, C., & Laury, S. (2002). Risk aversion and incentive effects. American Economic Review, 92, 1644–1655.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Houser, D., & Kurzban, R. (2002). Revisiting kindness and confusion in public goods experiments. American Economic Review, 92, 1062–1069.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Houser, D., Montinari, N., & Piovesan, M. (2012). Private and public decisions in social dilemmas: Evidence from children’s behavior. PLoS One, 7, e41568.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Joffily, M., Masclet, D., Noussair, C., & Villeval, M.-C. (2014). Emotions, sanctions and cooperation. Southern Economic Journal, 4, 1002–1027.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Kandori, M. (2002). The erosion and sustainability of norms and morale. Working Paper, CTRJE-F-169, University of Tokyo.Google Scholar
  45. Katz, R. C., & Singh, N. (1986). A comparison of current smokers and self-cured quitters on Rosenbaum’s self-control schedule. Addictive Behaviors, 11, 63–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Kelley, H., & Stahelski, A. (1970). Social interaction basis of cooperators’ and competitors’ beliefs about others. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 16, 66–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Keser, C., & van Winden, F. (2000). Conditional cooperation and voluntary contributions to public goods. Scandinavian Journal of Economics, 102, 23–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Kieslich, P. J., & Hilbig, B. E. (2014). Cognitive conflict in social dilemmas: An analysis of response dynamics. Judgment and Decision Making, 9, 510–522.Google Scholar
  49. Klumpp, T. (2012). Finitely repeated voluntary provision of a public good. Journal of Public Economic Theory, 14, 547–572.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Kocher, M. G., Cherry, T., Kroll, S., Netzer, R. J., & Sutter, M. (2008). Conditional cooperation on three continents. Economics Letters, 101, 175–178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Kocher, M. G., Martinsson, P., Matzat, D., & Wollbrant, C. (2011). The role of beliefs, trust and risk preferences in contributions to a public good. In Working Papers in Economics 482, University of Gothenburg.Google Scholar
  52. Kreps, D., Milgrom, P., Roberts, J., & Wilson, R. (1982). Rational cooperation in the finitely repeated prisoners’ dilemma. Journal of Economic Theory, 27, 245–252.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Laffont, J.-J. (1975). Macroeconomic constraints, economic efficiency and ethics: An introduction to Kantian economics. Economica, 42, 430–437.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Ledyard, O. (1995). Public goods: Some experimental results (Chapter 2). In J. Kagel & A. Roth (Eds.), Handbook of experimental economics. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  55. Lohse, J., Goeschl, T., & Diederich, J. (2014). Giving is a question of time: Response times and contributions to a real world public good. Discussion Paper Series No. 566, Department of Economics, University of Heidelberg.Google Scholar
  56. Lotito, G., Migheli, M., & Ortona, G. (2013). Is cooperation instinctive? Evidence from the response times in a public goods game. Journal of Bioeconomics, 15, 123–133.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Martinsson, P., Myrseth, K. O. R., & Wollbrant, C. (2012). Reconciling pro-social vs. selfish behavior: On the role of self-control. Judgment and Decision Making, 7, 304–315.Google Scholar
  58. Martinsson, P., Myrseth, K. O. R., & Wollbrant, C. (2014). Social dilemmas: When self-control benefits cooperation. Journal of Economic Psychology, 45, 213–236.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Martinsson, P., Pham-Khanh, N., & Villegas-Palacio, C. (2013). Conditional cooperation and disclosure in developing countries. Journal of Economic Psychology, 34, 148–155.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Milgram, N., Sroloff, B., & Rosenbaum, M. (1988). The procrastination of every day life. Journal of Research in Personality, 22, 197–212.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Mischel, W., & Metzner, R. (1962). Preference for delayed reward as a function of age, intelligence, and length of delay interval. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 64, 425–431.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Mischel, W., Shoda, Y., & Peake, P. K. (1988). The nature of adolescent competencies predicted by preschool delay of gratification. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54, 687–696.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Mischel, W., Shoda, Y., & Rodriguez, M. L. (1989). Delay of gratification in children. Science, 244, 933–938.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Myrseth, K. O. R., & Fishbach, A. (2009). Self-control: A function of knowing when and how to exercise restraint. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 18, 247–252.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Myrseth, K. O. R., Fishbach, A., & Trope, Y. (2009). Counteractive self-control: When making temptation available makes temptation less tempting. Psychological Science, 20, 159–163.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Myrseth, K. O. R., Riener, G., & Wollbrant, C. (2015). Tangible temptation in the social dilemma: Cash, cooperation and self-control. Journal of Neuroscience, Psychology, and Economics, 8, 61–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Myrseth, K. O. R., & Wollbrant, C. (2013). A theory of self-control and naïveté: The blights of willpower and blessings of temptation. Journal of Economic Psychology, 34, 8–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Myrseth, K. O. R., & Wollbrant, C. (2015a). Intuitive cooperation refuted: Commentary on Rand et al. (2012) and Rand et al. (2014). University of Gothenburg, Working Papers in Economics No. 617.Google Scholar
  69. Myrseth, K. O. R., & Wollbrant, C. (2015b). Less cognitive conflict does not imply choice of the default option: Commentary on Kieslich and Hilbig (2014). Judgment and Decision Making, 10, 277–279.Google Scholar
  70. Neugebauer, T., Perote, J., Schmidt, U., & Loos, M. (2009). Selfish-biased conditional cooperation: On the decline of contributions in repeated public goods experiments. Journal of Economic Psychology, 30, 52–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Nielsen, U. H., Tyran, J.-R., & Wengström, E. (2014). Second thoughts on free riding. Economics Letters, 122, 13–139.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Nyborg, K. (2000). Homo economicus and homo politicus: Interpretation and aggregation of environmental values. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 42, 305–322.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. O’Donoghue, T., & Loewenstein, G. (2007). The heat of the moment: Modeling interactions between affect and deliberation. www.arts.cornell.edu/econ/edo1/heat.pdf.
  74. Osgood, J. M., & Muraven, M. (2015). Self-Control depletion does not diminish attitudes about being prosocial but does diminish prosocial behaviors. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 37, 68–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Palfrey, T., & Prisbrey, J. (1997). Anomalous behavior in public goods experiments: How much and why? American Economic Review, 87, 829–846.Google Scholar
  76. Piovesan, M., & Wengström, E. (2009). Fast or fair? A study of response times. Economics Letters, 105, 193–196.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Rand, D. G., Greene, J. D., & Nowak, M. A. (2012). Spontaneous giving and calculated greed. Nature, 489, 427–430.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Rand, D. G., Peysakhovich, A., Kraft-Todd, G. T., Newman, G. E., Wurzbacher, O., Nowak, M. A., & Greene, J. D. (2014). Social heuristics shape intuitive cooperation. Nature Communications, 5, 3677.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Romal, J. B., & Kaplan, B. J. (1995). Differences in self-control among spenders and savers. Psychology: A Journal of Human Behavior, 32, 8–17.Google Scholar
  80. Rosenbaum, M. (1980a). A schedule for assessing self-control behaviors: Preliminary findings. Behavior Therapy, 11, 109–121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Rosenbaum, M. (1980b). Individual differences in self-control behaviors and tolerance of painful stimulation. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 89, 581–590.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Rosenbaum, M. (1989). Self-control under stress: The role of learned resourcefulness. Advances in Behavior Research and Therapy, 11, 249–258.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Rosenbaum, M., & Palmon, N. (1984). Helplessness and resourcefulness in coping with epilepsy. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 52, 244–253.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Rosenbaum, M., & Rolnick, A. (1983). Self-control behaviors and coping with seasickness. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 7, 93–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Rosenbaum, M., & Smira, B.-A. K. (1986). Cognitive and personality factors in the delay of gratification of hemodialysis patients. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51, 357–364.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Schelling, T. (1984). Self-command in practice, in policy, and in a theory of choice. American Economic Review, 74, 1–11.Google Scholar
  87. Schulz, J. F., Fischbacher, U., Thöni, C., & Utikal, V. (2014). Affect and fairness: Dictator games under cognitive load. Journal of Economic Psychology, 41, 77–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Selten, R. (1967). Die Strategiemethode zur Erforschung des eingeschränkt rationalen Verhaltens im Rahmen eines Oligopolexperiments. In H. Sauermann (Ed.), Beiträge zur experimentellen Wirtschaftsforschung (Vol. 1, pp. 136–168). Tübingen: Mohr.Google Scholar
  89. Shoda, Y., Mischel, W., & Peake, P. K. (1990). Predicting adolescent cognitive and social competence from preschool delay of gratification: Identifying diagnostic conditions. Developmental Psychology, 26, 978–986.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  90. Sugden, R. (1984). On the economics of philanthropy. Economic Journal, 92, 341–350.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  91. Tinghög, G., Andersson, D., Bonn, C., Böttiger, H., Josephson, C., Lundgren, G., et al. (2013). Intuition and cooperation reconsidered. Nature, 497, E1–E2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  92. Trope, Y., & Fishbach, A. (2000). Counteractive self-control in overcoming temptation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 79, 493–506.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  93. Verkoeijen, P. P. J. L., & Bouwmeester, S. (2014). Does intuition cause cooperation? PLoS One, 9, e96654.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  94. Volk, S., Thöni, C., & Ruigrok, W. (2012). Temporal stability and psychological foundations of cooperation preferences. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 81, 664–676.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  95. Zelmer, J. (2003). Linear public goods games: A meta-analysis. Experimental Economics, 6, 299–310.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Economic Science Association 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Martin G. Kocher
    • 1
    • 2
    • 4
  • Peter Martinsson
    • 2
  • Kristian Ove R. Myrseth
    • 3
  • Conny E. Wollbrant
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of EconomicsUniversity of MunichMunichGermany
  2. 2.Department of EconomicsUniversity of GothenburgGöteborgSweden
  3. 3.School of ManagementUniversity of St AndrewsSt AndrewsUK
  4. 4.School of Economics and FinanceQueensland University of TechnologyBrisbaneAustralia

Personalised recommendations