Anticipated discussion and cooperation in a social dilemma
Rationality and Society 23 (2), 2011, pages 199-216
We study how announced post-play, face-to-face discussions affect individual contributions to a public good in an experimental setting. To our surprise ex-post discussions reduced the average contribution to the public good. The negative impact of discussions was turned around when we labelled the choice of not contributing to the public good as ‘free-riding’. The same label had no impact in the no-discussion baseline version of our game. Our explanation of why we observe these patterns is that the announcement of ex-post discussions draws attention to empirical expectations (what will others do?) and to norms of cooperation (what is the morally right choice?).