Experimental Economics

, Volume 16, Issue 4, pp 478–496 | Cite as

Confusion and learning in the voluntary contributions game

  • Ralph-C. Bayer
  • Elke Renner
  • Rupert Sausgruber


We use a limited information environment to assess the role of confusion in the repeated voluntary contributions game. A comparison with play in a standard version of the game suggests, that the common claim that decision errors due to confused subjects biases estimates of cooperation upwards, is not necessarily correct. Furthermore, we find that simple learning cannot generate the kind of contribution dynamics commonly attributed to the existence of conditional cooperators. We conclude that cooperative behavior and its decay observed in public goods games is not a pure artefact of confusion and learning.


Voluntary contribution mechanism Public goods experiments Learning Limited information Confusion Conditional cooperation 

JEL Classification

C90 D83 H41 



We are grateful for financial support by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) under Projects No. P17029 and S10307-G14 as well as by the Faculty of Profession Research Grant Scheme of the University of Adelaide. We thank the editor Jordi Brandts, Simon Gächter, Martin Sefton and three anonymous referees for helpful comments and suggestions.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Economic Science Association 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ralph-C. Bayer
    • 1
  • Elke Renner
    • 2
  • Rupert Sausgruber
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.School of EconomicsUniversity of AdelaideAdelaideAustralia
  2. 2.School of EconomicsUniversity of NottinghamNottinghamUK
  3. 3.Department of Economics & StatisticsUniversity of InnsbruckInnsbruckAustria
  4. 4.Department of EconomicsUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagen KDenmark

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