How Unconditional is Conditional Cooperation?


Olexandr Nikolaychuk and Peter Katuščák



Using experimental data on children’s and parents’ behavior in four binary choice games, which allows for classifying subjects into altruistic, egalitarian and spiteful types, this paper explores the intergenerational relationship of other-regarding preferences. The results show that there is strong positive and significant correlation between children’s and parents’ other- regarding preferences. The results also indicate that parents’ parochial preferences strongly influence children’s in-group favoritism and out-group hostility. Analyzing the impact of family structure on the strength of transmission process it was found that children in large families and those born later tend to be more dissimilar with parents, while child’s gender does not affect the strength of transmission. These findings provide a new perspective about where does other-regarding preferences come from. The findings also contribute to the literature of cultural transmission.

Previous experimental research suggests that a non-negligible number of subjects do not resort to free-riding in the linear public goods game but rather are willing to contribute as long as other group members do so. We improve upon the classic design by Fischbacher et al. (2001) to enable the subjects to condition their behavior on the minimum, median, average or maximum contribution, as well as on the full contribution profile of other group members. We find that conditional cooperation is a stable phenomenon that is not affected by the choice of a conditioning statistic used to classify the subjects as exhibiting such behavior. The presence of the self-serving bias, however, depends on the choice of the statistic. The subjects tend to reciprocate the average rather than the other statistics. Finally, we provide guidelines on how the total contribution level can be increased by varying the amount and type of information available to the subjects.

Keywords: public goods, conditional cooperation, self-serving bias, full information, summary statistic, strategy method, experiment.

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