How does the effect of pre-play suggestions vary with group size? Experimental evidence from a threshold public-good game

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Numerous studies have examined factors influencing the likelihood of cooperative outcomes in nonzero-sum games, but there has been little study of the interaction between two of the most important: group size and pre-play cheap talk. We report results from an experiment in which groups of size between 2 and 15 play a one-shot multi-player threshold public-good game. In our random leader treatment, all group members select a suggestion (e.g., Everyone should choose X ), with one randomly chosen to be broadcast to the group. In a choice only treatment, subjects choose suggestions but none is sent, and in a baseline treatment, there are no suggestions at all. We find a negative interaction between group size and this kind of communication: the beneficial effect of both suggestions overall and cooperative suggestions on cooperation, cooperative outcomes, and payoffs decreases sharply as the group size increases. We find a similar negative interaction in a follow-up treatment in which all group members suggestions are broadcast to the group. Our results suggest that care should be taken in generalising conclusions from small-group experiments to large groups.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)263 - 280
Number of pages18
JournalEuropean Economic Review
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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