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Social learning increases the acceptance and the efficiency of punishment institutions in social dilemmas

Gürerk, Özgür (2010): Social learning increases the acceptance and the efficiency of punishment institutions in social dilemmas.

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Abstract

Endogenously chosen punishment institutions perform well in increasing contributions and long-term payoffs in social dilemma situations. However, they suffer from (a) initial reluctance of subjects to join the punishment institution and (b) initial efficiency losses due to frequent punishment. Here, we investigate the effects of social learning on the acceptence and the efficiency of a peer punishment institution in a community choice experiment. Subjects choose between communities with and without the possibility to punish peers before interacting in a repeated social dilemma situation. We find that providing participants with a social history - presenting the main results of an identical previous experiment conducted with dierent subjects - decreases the initial reluctance towards the punishment institution signicantly. Moreover, with social history, cooperative groups reach the social optimum more rapidly and there is lower efficiency loss due to reduced punishment. Our findings shed light on the importance of social learning for the acceptance of seemingly unpopular but socially desirable mechanisms.

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