Cooperation over finite horizons: a theory and experiments. accepted for publication by the Journal of Public Economics. 2010.Abstract.
This paper shows that the presence of different types of players - those who only care about their own material payoffs and those who reciprocate others' contributions - can explain the robust features of observed contribution patterns in public good contribution games, even without the presence of asymmetric information. We show what conditions on reciprocity are sufficient for a unique perfect equilibrium, in which contributions are decreasing. Under these conditions, selfish players have enough future benefits to induce subsequent contributions by reciprocal players, and this incentive diminishes as the end of the game approaches. The model explains the puzzling restart effect and is consistent with various other empirical findings. We also report the results of a series of experiments, using a probabilistic continuation design in which after each set of 10-period games, the group is restarted with low probability. We find specic support for the theory in our data, including that selfish players (identied exogenously) stop contributing earlier than reciprocal players, as directly implied by the model.