Peer effects and social preferences in voluntary cooperation: A theoretical and experimental analysis

Gaechter, Simon (2017). Peer effects and social preferences in voluntary cooperation: A theoretical and experimental analysis. [Data Collection]. Colchester, Essex: UK Data Archive. 10.5255/UKDA-SN-852822

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)

Social preferences and social influence effects (“peer effects”) are well documented, but little is known about how peers shape social preferences. Settings where social preferences matter are often situations where peer effects are likely too. In a gift-exchange experiment with independent payoffs between two agents we find causal evidence for peer effects. Efforts are positively correlated but with a kink: agents follow a low-performing but not a high-performing peer. This contradicts major theories of social preferences which predict that efforts are unrelated, or negatively related. Some theories allow for positively-related efforts but cannot explain most observations. Conformism, norm following and social esteem are candidate explanations.

Data creators:
Creator Name Affiliation ORCID (as URL)
Gaechter Simon University of Nottingham
Name Affiliation ORCID (as URL)
Thoeni Christian University of Lausanne
Sponsors: Economic and Social Research Council
Grant reference: ES/K002201/1
Topic classification: Economics
Keywords: social preferences, voluntary cooperation, peer effects, reflection problem, gift-exchange, conformism, social norms, social esteem, experiments
Project title: Network for Integrated Behavioural Science
Grant holders: Chris Starmer, Nick Chater, Daniel John Zizzo, Gordon Brown, Anders Poulsen, Martin Sefton, Neil Stewart, Uwe Aickelin, Robert Sugden, John Gathergood, Graham Loomes, Enrique Fatas, Abigail Barr, Robin Cubitt, Shaun Hargreaves-Heap, Daniel Read, Robert MacKay, Theodore Turocy, Simon Gaechter
Project dates:
31 December 201230 September 2017
Date published: 27 Nov 2017 13:30
Last modified: 27 Nov 2017 13:30

Available Files



Read me


data downloads and page views since this item was published

View more statistics


Edit item (login required)

Edit Item Edit Item