Conditional Cooperation: Disentangling Strategic from Non-Strategic Motivations

E. Reuben, S. Suetens

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We use a novel experimental design to examine the role of reputational concerns in explaining conditional cooperation in social dilemmas. By using the strategy method in a repeated sequential prisoners’ dilemma in which the probabilistic end is known, we can distinguish between strategically and non-strategically motivated cooperation. Second movers who are strong reciprocators ought to conditionally cooperate with first movers irrespective of whether the game continues or not. In contrast, strategically motivated second movers conditionally cooperate only if the game continues and they otherwise defect. Experimental results, with two different subject pools, indicate reputation building is used around 30% of the time, which accounts for between 50% and 75% of all realized cooperative actions. The percentage of strong reciprocators varied between 6% to 23%.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationTilburg
Number of pages26
Publication statusPublished - 2008

Publication series

NameCentER Discussion Paper


  • cooperation
  • reputation building
  • strong reciprocity
  • repeated prisoners’ dilemma


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