Social Choice and Welfare

, Volume 51, Issue 3, pp 465–491 | Cite as

Cost asymmetry and incomplete information in a volunteer’s dilemma experiment

  • Andrew J. Healy
  • Jennifer G. Pate
Original Paper


We utilize a laboratory experiment to examine the effect of asymmetric costs in the volunteer’s dilemma, a public goods game where all players receive a benefit if at least one person volunteers and nothing otherwise, which presents a social dilemma where the optimal action for the individual differs from that for the group. Additionally, we introduce uncertainty to explore the role of information and find that individual behavior aligns most closely with the more intuitive Nash equilibrium strategies under full information and to a lesser extent with incomplete information. Although uncertainty about fellow group members’ costs incentivizes greater volunteering and thus has the potential to improve efficiency, we find that the inability to coordinate prevents groups from experiencing welfare gains as a result.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EconomicsLoyola Marymount UniversityLos AngelesUSA

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