Group cooperation under uncertainty

  • Min GongEmail author
  • Jonathan Baron
  • Howard Kunreuther


Previous research has shown an ‘interindividual-intergroup discontinuity effect’: intergroup interactions generally lead to less cooperative outcomes than interindividual interactions. We replicate the discontinuity effect in the deterministic prisoner’s dilemma, but find that groups are more cooperative than individuals in a stochastic version of the game. Three major factors that underlie the usual discontinuity effect are reduced in the stochastic environment: greed, fear, and persuasion power. Two group mechanisms are proposed to explain the reversed discontinuity effect: the motivation to avoid guilt and blame when making decisions that affect others’ welfare, and the social pressure to conform to certain norms when one is in a group setting.


Group decision Uncertainty Cooperation Experimental economics 

JEL Classification




We appreciate helpful comments and suggestions from David Aadland, Colin Camerer, Rachel Croson, Jason Dana, Charles Holt, David Krantz, Robert Meyer, Charles Plott, Deborah Small, and participants at the CRED 2008 Annual Meeting, the CREATE Behavioral Economics and Terrorism Workshop, the SJDM 2008 Annual Conference, Jonathan Baron lab meeting, and weekly seminar at the Marketing Department, the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. We thank the Wharton Behavior Lab, Leonid Markel, and Sarah Martin for collecting and compiling the data. We also wish to thank Kip Viscusi and an anonymous reviewer for their feedback and suggestions on an earlier version of the paper. This research is supported by National Science Foundation grant CMS-0527598.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Research on Environmental DecisionsColumbia UniversityNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA
  3. 3.Decisions Sciences and Public Policy, Wharton SchoolUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA
  4. 4.Wharton Risk Management and Decision Processes CenterPhiladelphiaUSA

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