Review of Behavioral Economics > Vol 6 > Issue 1

The Dose Does it: Punishment and Cooperation in Dynamic Public-Good Games

Bettina Rockenbach, University of Cologne, Germany, Irenaeus Wolff, University of Konstanz/TWI, Switzerland,
Suggested Citation
Bettina Rockenbach and Irenaeus Wolff (2019), "The Dose Does it: Punishment and Cooperation in Dynamic Public-Good Games", Review of Behavioral Economics: Vol. 6: No. 1, pp 19-37.

Publication Date: 26 Feb 2019
© 2019 B. Rockenbach and I. Wolff
Experimental Economics,  Evolution
CooperationDynamic gamePunishmentRetaliationEndowment endogeneityExperiment


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In this article:
1. Introduction 
2. Methods 
3. Hypotheses 
4. Results 
5. Discussion 


We experimentally study the role of punishment for cooperation in dynamic public-good problems where past payoffs determine present contribution capabilities. The beneficial role of punishment possibilities for cooperation is fragile: successful cooperation hinges on the presence of a common understanding of how punishment should be used. If high-contributors punish too readily, the group likely gets on a wasteful path of punishment and retaliation. If punishment is administered more patiently, even initially uncooperative groups thrive. Hence, when today’s punishment also determines tomorrow’s cooperation abilities, it seems crucial that groups agree on the right ‘dose’ of sanctions for punishment to support cooperation.