The Effects of Greed and Fear in Symmetric and Asymmetric Volunteer’s Dilemma

AbstractThe current research explores the role of two different motives underlying volunteering (or defecting) in a simple economic game. We find in Study 1 that in a symmetric Volunteer's Dilemma (VoD) the willingness to volunteer is reduced more strongly by an increase in the payoff for unilateral defection (suggesting more greed) than by an increase in the payoff for mutual defection (suggesting less fear). In Study 2, we replicate this finding when only the participants' own payoffs are varied, but not when only the other player's payoffs are varied. These findings are inconsistent with standard (i.e., Nash) game-theoretic predictions and Schelling's focal-point hypothesis. Instead, the empirical patterns suggest that participants approach the VoD using egocentric decision heuristics.

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