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Basic Procedure

Each participant receives an initial "endowment" of 20 each round.
During each round, you may contribute up between 0 and all of the endowment you receive that round to the "public good"
We then total up all the contributions and multiple by 1.5
Then we divide this up among ALL players (without regard to how much each contributed).

Three Variations

In group 1, the game is played "confidentially," that is, the players do not find out what the other participants have done in each round, only the aggregate results.
In group 2, the group members have to announce what their contributions were.

Group 3 is like group 2 except participants have an opportunity to punish any group members whose behavior they did not appreciate. Punishment costs $1 for each one imposed. The cost to the recipient of the punishment is to forfeit 10% of the return from the public kitty that they would have received.

VARIATIONS: One group tight knit. One group puts someone in charge?

Imagine that your grade for the exercise will be based on the size of your balance after ten rounds as follows

Balance Grade
270-300 A+
240-269 A
210-239 A-
180-209 B+
150-179 B
120-149 B-
90-119 C+
60-89 C
30-59 D
<30 F


Write a short (250 words) essay describing the game and what happened, and offer suggestions for how a group could maximize it's collective outcome. The description can be very brief noting that a group of students played a standard "public goods game" Why do you think people who did not contribute maximally did not? Or, why do you think people contributed more than they "had to"?

Your essay should have a title and a works cited section using standard citation format. Page format shown below.

Here's a paragraph from Gintis, et al. (2003)

The public goods game has been analyzed in a series of papers by the social psychologist Yamagishi (1986, 1988), by the political scientist Ostrom, Walker, and Gardner (1992), and by economists Fehr and Ga¨chter (Fehr & Gachter, 2000, 2002; Ga¨chter & Fehr, 1999). These researchers uniformly found the groups exhibit a much higher rate of cooperation than can be expected assuming the standard economic model of the self-interested actor, and this is especially the case when subjects are given the option of incurring a cost to themselves in order to punish free riders.

You can simply mention the public goods game and cite Gintis et al. and Yamagishi 1986:

  • Gintis, Herbert, Samuel Bowles, Robert Boyd, and Ernst Fehr. 2003. "Explaining altruistic behavior in humans," Evolution and Human Behavior 24, 153–172.
  • Yamagishi, T. 1986. "The provision of a sanctioning system as a public good." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51, 110–116.

Page Format

Title of Essay
Mills College soc112
25 January 2012

(249 words)

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Works Cited

AuthorLname, Fname. Year. "Article Title." Journal Name volume, number: pages.
AuthorLname, Fname. Year. Book Title. City: Publisher.


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