Experimental Economics

, Volume 11, Issue 4, pp 358–369 | Cite as

A comparative statics analysis of punishment in public-good experiments

  • Nikos Nikiforakis
  • Hans-Theo Normann


This paper provides a comparative-statics analysis of punishment in public-good experiments. We vary the effectiveness of punishment, that is, the factor by which punishment reduces the punished player’s income. The data show that contributions increase monotonically in punishment effectiveness. High effectiveness leads to near complete cooperation and welfare improvements. Below a certain threshold, however, punishment cannot prevent the decay of cooperation. In these cases, punishment opportunities reduce welfare. The results suggest that the experimenter’s choice of the punishment effectiveness is of great importance for the experimental outcome.


Decentralized punishment Punishment effectiveness Public good Welfare 


C92 D70 H41 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Supplementary material

10683_2007_9171_MOESM1_ESM.doc (45 kb)
Data Object
10683_2007_9171_MOESM2_ESM.xls (200 kb)
Data Object


  1. Anderson, C., & Putterman, L. (2006). Do non-strategic sanctions obey the law of demand? The demand for punishment in the voluntary contribution mechanism. Games and Economic Behavior, 54(1), 1–24 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bochet, O., Page, T., & Putterman, L. (2006). Communication and punishment in voluntary contribution experiments. Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, 60(1), 11–26 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Carpenter, J. (2007a, in press). Punishing free-riders: how group size affects mutual monitoring and the provision of public goods. Games and Economic Behavior Google Scholar
  4. Carpenter, J. (2007b). The demand for punishment. Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, 62, 522–542 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Casari, M. (2005). On the design of peer punishment experiments. Experimental Economics, 8(2), 107–115 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cinyabuguma, M., Page, T., & Putterman, L. (2006). Can second-order punishment deter perverse punishment? Experimental Economics, 9, 265–279 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Denant-Boemont, L., Masclet, D., & Noussair, C. (2007, in press). Punishment, counterpunishment and sanction enforcement in a social dilemma experiment. Economic Theory Google Scholar
  8. Egas, M., & Riedl, A. (2005). The economics of altruistic punishment and the demise of cooperation. Tinbergen institute discussion Papers 05-065/1 Google Scholar
  9. Falk, A., Fehr, E., & Fischbacher, U. (2005). Driving forces behind informal sanctions. Econometrica, 73(6), 2017–2030 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Fehr, E., & Gächter, S. (2000). Cooperation and punishment in public goods experiments. American Economic Review, 90(4), 980–994 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Fehr, E., & Gächter, S. (2002). Altruistic punishment in humans. Nature, 415, 137–140 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Fehr, E., & Schmidt, K. (1999). A theory of fairness, competition and co-operation. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 114, 817–868 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Fischbacher, U. (2007). z-Tree: Zurich toolbox for ready-made economic experiments. Experimental Economics, 10(2), 171–178 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gürerk, O., Irlendbusch, B., & Rockenbach, B. (2006). The competitive advantage of sanctioning institutions. Science, 312, 108–111 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hollander, M., & Wolfe, D. A. (1999). Nonparametric statistical methods. New York: Wiley Google Scholar
  16. Keser, C., & van Winden, F. (2000). Partners contribute more than strangers: conditional cooperation. Scandinavian Journal of Economics, 102(1), 23–39 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Masclet, D., Noussair, C., Tucker, S., & Villeval, M. C. (2003). Monetary and non-monetary punishment in the voluntary contributions mechanism. American Economic Review, 93, 366–380 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Masclet, D., & Villeval, M. C. (2006). Punishment, inequality and emotions. IZA Discussion Paper No. 2119 Google Scholar
  19. Nikiforakis, N. (2007, in press). Punishment and counter-punishment in public good games—can we really govern ourselves? Journal of Public Economics Google Scholar
  20. Nikiforakis, N., & Normann, H. T. (2005). A comparative statics analysis of punishment in public-good experiments. Royal Holloway Discussion Papers Series, dpe05/7 Google Scholar
  21. Nikiforakis, N., Normann, H. T., & Wallace, B. (2007). Asymmetric enforcement of cooperation in a social dilemma. University of Melbourne Economics Working Paper No. 982 Google Scholar
  22. Noussair, C., & Tucker, S. (2005). Combining monetary and social sanctions to promote cooperation. Economic Inquiry, 43(3), 649–660 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Ostrom, E., Walker, J., & Gardner, R. (1992). Covenants with and without a sword: self governance is possible. American Political Science Review, 86, 404–417 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Page, T., Putterman, L., & Unel, B. (2005). Voluntary association in public goods experiments: reciprocity, mimicry and efficiency. The Economic Journal, 115(506), 1032–1053 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Sefton, M., Shupp, R., & Walker, J. (2005). The effect of rewards and sanctions in provision of public goods. Ball State University, Department of Economics, Working Paper 200504 Google Scholar
  26. Varian, H. R. (1999). Intermediate microeconomics (5th ed.). New York: Norton Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Economic Science Association 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EconomicsThe University of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia
  2. 2.Department of Economics, Royal HollowayUniversity of LondonEghamUK

Personalised recommendations