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“Das Modell ist dafür nicht geeignet!” (“The Model is not Suitable for This!”): The Model of Frame Selection and a Corrective Replication of the Findings in the Fehr-Gächter Experiments on the Development of Cooperation in Public Good Situations

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Abstract

This paper addresses the question of whether the model of frame selection (MFS) is more capable of explaining the findings in Fehr and Gächter’s classic experiments on the effects of reciprocity and punishment than rational choice theory (RCT). The focus is on results on the replication of the original experiment and some modifications. The modifications refer to the extension or repetition of certain sequences with and without punishment. This was intended to address three questions: Are there effects of the salience of a cooperative framing in the start, even when cooperation decays in the absence of punishment? Does cooperative framing strengthen with the extension of the punishment phase by priming? Are there restart effects such that even a simple repetition of the same game after cooperation decays in a phase without the possibility of punishment causes cooperation to rise again? In fact, all three effects are observed. In a final step, these effects are reconstructed and compared against the background of the two approaches, MFS and RCT. The salience and priming effects are easily explained with the MFS, while RCT can only come up with an explanation given quite implausible additional assumptions, for instance with respect to reputation effects in finite iterated games. No approach provides an obvious explanation for the restart effects.

Keyword

  • Fehr-Gächter experiments
  • Reciprocity and punishment
  • Model of frame selection
  • Salience and priming
  • Restart effects

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Notes

  1. 1.

    As in the reanalysis of the F&G experiments by Esser (2018), the contributions in the first round of the first sequence were used to classify the subjects into the categories of selfish and reciprocals. This procedure would be in line with the idea of revealed preferences as one of the principles of RCT still remaining despite the extensions. During the reanalysis of the F&G experiments, nothing else was possible since there were no additional surveys of the motives. The procedure was therefore consciously adopted for the replicating comparison. The data from the ELFE project also contain information about the motives from follow-up surveys. In principle, it would also be possible to refer to this information.

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Acknowledgments

The author thanks Dipl. Psych. Friederike Haiser for translating this manuscript from German.

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Correspondence to Hartmut Esser .

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Esser, H. (2021). “Das Modell ist dafür nicht geeignet!” (“The Model is not Suitable for This!”): The Model of Frame Selection and a Corrective Replication of the Findings in the Fehr-Gächter Experiments on the Development of Cooperation in Public Good Situations. In: Krumpal, I., Raub, W., Tutić, A. (eds) Rationality in Social Science. Springer VS, Wiesbaden. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-658-33536-6_4

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-658-33536-6_4

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