Not Just Like Starting Over: Leadership and Revivification of Cooperation in Groups

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Working paper
Jordi Brandts, Christina Rott, Carles SolĂ 
Issue number: 
Barcelona GSE Working Paper
We conduct a laboratory experiment to study how, after a history of decay, cooperation in a repeated voluntary contribution game can be revived in an enduring way. Simply starting the repeated game over - a simple fresh start - leads to an initial increase of cooperation, but to a subsequent new decay. Motivated by cooperation decay in organizations we study the potential of three interventions of triggering higher and sustained cooperation taking place at the same time as a restart. Surprisingly, we find that the detailed explanation of the causes of the decay in cooperation from Fischbacher and Gaechter (2010) combined with an advice on how to prevent decay do not have an effect beyond that of just starting over. In contrast, a one-way free form communication message sent by the leader to the followers strongly revives cooperation. Repeated free form communication by the leader further strengthens the reviving effect on cooperation. Combining the two previous interventions does not outperform the pure effect of communication. Our content analysis reveals that leader communication is more people oriented and less formal than the expert advice.
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