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Open Access item Inter-Group Conflict and Intra-Group Punishment in an Experimental Contest Game

Authors:Abbink, Klaus
Brandts, Jordi
Herrmann, Benedikt
Orzen, Henrik
Keywords:Laboratory experiments, Rent-seeking, Conflict, Group competitiveness
Issue Date:15-Jan-2008
Series/Report no.:UFAE and IAE Working Papers
Abstract:We study how conflict in a contest game is influenced by rival parties being groups and by group members being able to punish each other. Our main motivation stems from the analysis of socio-political conflict. The relevant theoretical prediction in our setting is that conflict expenditures are independent of group size and independent of whether punishment is available or not. We find, first, that our results contradict the independence of group-size prediction: conflict expenditures of groups are substantially larger than those of individuals, and both are substantially above equilibrium. Towards the end of the experiment material losses in groups are 257% of the predicted level. There is, however, substantial heterogeneity in the investment behaviour of individual group members. Second, allowing group members to punish each other after individual contributions to the contest effort are revealed leads to even larger conflict expenditures. Now material losses are 869% of the equilibrium level and there is much less heterogeneity in individual group members' investments. These results contrast strongly with those from public goods experiments where punishment enhances efficiency and leads to higher material payoffs.
Description:Trabajo publicado como artículo en American Economic Review 100(1): 420-447 (2010).-- http://dx.doi.org/10.1257/aer.100.1.420
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