Dispositional free riders do not free ride on punishment: Experimental data

Gaechter, Simon (2018). Dispositional free riders do not free ride on punishment: Experimental data. [Data Collection]. Colchester, Essex: UK Data Service. 10.5255/UKDA-SN-853250

This network project brings together economists, psychologists, computer and complexity scientists from three leading centres for behavioural social science at Nottingham, Warwick and UEA. This group will lead a research programme with two broad objectives: to develop and test cross-disciplinary models of human behaviour and behaviour change; to draw out their implications for the formulation and evaluation of public policy. Foundational research will focus on three inter-related themes: understanding individual behaviour and behaviour change; understanding social and interactive behaviour; rethinking the foundations of policy analysis. The project will explore implications of the basic science for policy via a series of applied projects connecting naturally with the three themes. These will include: the determinants of consumer credit behaviour; the formation of social values; strategies for evaluation of policies affecting health and safety. The research will integrate theoretical perspectives from multiple disciplines and utilise a wide range of complementary methodologies including: theoretical modeling of individuals, groups and complex systems; conceptual analysis; lab and field experiments; analysis of large data sets. The Network will promote high quality cross-disciplinary research and serve as a policy forum for understanding behaviour and behaviour change.

Data description (abstract)

Strong reciprocity explains prosocial cooperation by the presence of individuals who incur costs to help those who helped them (‘strong positive reciprocity’) and to punish those who wronged them (‘strong negative reciprocity’). Theories of social preferences predict that in contrast to ‘strong reciprocators’, self-regarding people cooperate and punish only if there are sufficient future benefits. Here, we test this prediction in a two-stage design. First, participants are classified according to their disposition towards strong positive reciprocity as either dispositional conditional cooperators (DCC) or dispositional free riders (DFR). Participants then play a one-shot public goods game, either with or without punishment. As expected, DFR cooperate only when punishment is possible, whereas DCC cooperate without punishment. Surprisingly, dispositions towards strong positive reciprocity are unrelated to strong negative reciprocity: punishment by DCC and DFR is practically identical. The ‘burden of cooperation’ is thus carried by a larger set of individuals than previously assumed.

Creator NameEmailAffiliationORCID (as URL)
Gaechter, Simonsimon.gaechter@nottingham.ac.ukUniversity of Nottinghamhttp://orcid.org/0000-0002-7182-8505
NameEmailAffiliationORCID (as URL)
Weber, Tilltilloweber@gmail.comGeary Institute for Public Policy,https://orcid.org/0000-0002-7136-0711
Weisel, OriUnspecifiedColler School of Management, Tel Aviv UniversityUnspecified
Research funders: Economic and Social Research Council
Grant reference: ES/K002201/1
Topic classification: Economics
Keywords: strong reciprocity, public goods game, punishment, emotions, conditional cooperation, free riding, social preferences, economic experiments
Project title: Network for Integrated Behavioural Science
Grant holders: Chris Starmer, Daniel John Zizzo, Nick Chater, Gordon Brown, Anders Poulsen, Martin Sefton, Neil Stewart, Uwe Aickelin, Robert Sugden, John Gathergood, Graham Loomes, Abigail Barr, Theodore Turocy, Simon Gaechter, Robert MacKay, Robin Cubitt, Daniel Read, Shaun Hargreaves-Heap, Enrique Fatas
Project dates:
31 December 201230 September 2017
Date published: 06 Jul 2018 14:25
Last modified: 06 Jul 2018 14:26

Available Files

No Files to display


data downloads and page views since this item was published

View more statistics


Edit item (login required)

View data collection View data collection