Teams in a public goods experiment with punishment
Heike Auerswald, Carsten Schmidt, Marcel Thum & Gaute Torsvik
Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics, Volume 72, February 2018.
Challenges addressed in global politics, such as climate change, maritime piracy and fighting highly contagious diseases, concern global public goods. The related policy decisions are primarily made by teams. In contrast, economic models of global public goods typically assume a single rational decision maker. We use a laboratory experiment to compare team decisions to the decisions of individuals in a finitely repeated public goods game with and without a costly punishment option. Teams of three participants coordinate on decisions either by majority or unanimity rule. We find that, in the absence of a punishment option, teams deciding by the unanimity rule contribute slightly more than individuals. With the punishment option, unanimity teams choose significantly lower levels of punishment and exhibit anti-social punishment less frequently than individuals. A possible explanation is the elimination of extreme preferences for punishment through the coordination process in teams.