Experimental Economics

, Volume 22, Issue 2, pp 552–576 | Cite as

Designing feedback in voluntary contribution games: the role of transparency

  • Bernd Irlenbusch
  • Rainer Michael RilkeEmail author
  • Gari Walkowitz
Original Paper


We analyze the effects of limited feedback on beliefs and contributions in a repeated public goods game setting. In a first experiment, we test whether exogenously determined feedback about a good example (i.e., the maximum contribution in a period) in contrast to a bad example (i.e., the minimum contribution in a period) induces higher contributions. We find that when the type of feedback is not transparent to the group members, good examples boost cooperation while bad examples hamper it. There is no difference when the type of feedback is transparent. In a second experiment, feedback is endogenously chosen by a group leader. The results show that a large majority of the group leaders count on the positive effect of providing a good example. This is true regardless whether they choose the feedback type to be transparent or non-transparent. Half of the group leaders make the type of feedback transparent. With endogenously chosen feedback about good examples no difference in contributions can be observed among transparent and non-transparent feedback selection. In both experiments feedback shapes subjects’ beliefs. With exogenously chosen feedback, transparent feedback tends to reduce beliefs when good examples are provided as feedback and tends to increase beliefs in when bad examples are provided as feedback compared to the respective non-transparent cases. Our results shed new light on the design of feedback provision in public goods settings.


Feedback design Transparency Public goods Imperfect conditional cooperation Experiment 

JEL Classification

H41 C92 D82 

Supplementary material

10683_2018_9575_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (1.3 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (pdf 1351 KB)


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Copyright information

© Economic Science Association 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bernd Irlenbusch
    • 1
  • Rainer Michael Rilke
    • 2
    Email author
  • Gari Walkowitz
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Corporate Development and Business EthicsUniversity of CologneCologneGermany
  2. 2.Economics GroupWHU - Otto Beisheim School of ManagementVallendarGermany
  3. 3.TUM School of Governance, Technical University of Munich & Center DigitizationMunichGermany

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