Review of Behavioral Economics > Vol 7 > Issue 1

The Effect of Leadership on Free-Riding: Results from a Public-Good Experiment

Daniel M. Parsons, Monash Business School, Australia, , Nick Feltovich, Monash Business School, Australia, , Philip J. Grossman, Monash Business School, Australia and University of Alaska Anchorage, USA,
Suggested Citation
Daniel M. Parsons, Nick Feltovich and Philip J. Grossman (2020), "The Effect of Leadership on Free-Riding: Results from a Public-Good Experiment", Review of Behavioral Economics: Vol. 7: No. 1, pp 31-63.

Publication Date: 25 Mar 2020
© 2020 D. M. Parsons, N. Feltovich and P. J. Grossman
Behavioral economics,  Public economics,  Economic theory,  Managerial characteristics and behavior of entrepreneurs,  Behavioral decision making
JEL Codes: D91D23C72C92H41M14
LeaderCheap talkLyingHonestyGroup culture


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In this article:
1. Introduction 
2. Literature Review 
3. Experimental Design 
4. Experimental Procedures 
5. Results 
6. Conclusion 
Appendix A: Instructions from the Experiment 


We examine the impact of two types of communication: (i) encouragement of honesty and (ii) encouragement of lying that benefits the group. Subjects choose contributions to a public good, with a portion of the contribution framed as determined by a self-reported die roll. While honesty is typically viewed as desirable, in our setting it is more equivocal, since it results in a sub-optimal group payoff. We find that when leaders encourage their followers to lie in a cooperative way, followers increase these “die roll” contributions. There is also a positive spillover into additional discretionary contributions to the public good. By contrast, the way leaders are chosen and their observed contribution history have little effect.