When punishment fails: Research on sanctions, intentions and non-cooperation

Daniel Edward Houser, Erte Xiao, Kevin McCabe, Vernon Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

97 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

People can become less cooperative when threatened with sanctions, and previous research suggests both intentions and incentives underlie this effect. We report data from an experiment aimed at determining the relative importance of intentions and incentives in producing non-cooperative behavior. Participants play a one-shot investment experiment in pairs. Investors send an amount to trustees, request a return on this investment and, in some treatments, can threaten sanctions to enforce their requests. Decisions by trustees facing threats imposed (or not) by investors are compared to decisions by trustees facing threats imposed (or not) by nature. When not threatened, trustees typically decide to return a positive amount less than the investor requested. When threatened this decision becomes least common. If the request is large relative to the sanction then most trustees return nothing. If the request is small, trustees typically return the requested amount. These results do not vary with investors intentions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)509 - 532
Number of pages24
JournalGames and Economic Behavior
Volume62
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2008

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