Effect of Information Structure in a Step-Level Public-Good Dilemma Under a Real-Time Protocol

  • Chi Sing Ngan
  • Wing Tung Au

A public good (PG) is a commodity or service made available to all members of a group. It has the property of non-rivalry that multiple people can simultaneously consume the same unit of the good. It also has the property of non-excludability that it is not possible (or very costly) to exclude people who do not pay from consuming the good (Davis & Holt, 1993). Public-good provision typically depends on the voluntary contribution by group members. Once provided, all can enjoy the benefits of the PG, regardless of whether or not they contributed. In the typical case that the marginal return on the PG is not sufficient to induce voluntary contribution, there is a strong temptation to free-ride (not contribute) in the hope that others will contribute sufficiently. A key classification of public-good dilemmas is the relationship between the level of contributions and the level of provision of the public good (Kollock, 1998). Discrete good, also known as step-level good, can only be provided in its entirety; it is not practical to provide in a lesser amount (Komorita & Parks, 1994). An example is a bridge, which will only be built if voluntary contributions are enough to cover the whole cost. On the contrary, continuous goods can be provided at any level, determined by the rate or amount of contribution. There is not a minimum amount of contribution before it can function. This study examines a step-level public-good dilemma.


Public Good Contribution Rate Voluntary Contribution Social Dilemma Public Good Game 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Au, W. T. (2004). Criticality and environmental uncertainty in step-level public goods dilemmas. Group Dynamics, 8, 40–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Au, W. T., Chen, X. P., Komorita, S. S. (1998). A probabilistic model of criticality in a sequential public good dilemma. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Process, 75, 274–293.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Au, W. T., Ngai, M. Y. (2003). Effects of group size uncertainty and protocol of play in a common pool resource dilemma. Group Processes and Intergroup Relations, 6, 265–283.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Barry, B., Hardin, R. (1982). Rational Man and Irrational Society? Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  5. Budescu, D. V., Au, W. T., Chen, X. P. (1997). Effect of protocol of play and social orientation on behavior in sequential resource dilemmas. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 65(3), 179–193.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Budescu, D. V., Suleiman, R., Rapoport, A. (1995). Positional order and group size effects in resource dilemma with uncertain resources. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 61, 225–238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Chen, X. P., Au, W. T., Komorita, S. S. (1996). Sequential choice in a step-level public goods dilemma: The effects of criticality and uncertainty. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 69, 179–193.Google Scholar
  8. Chen, X. P., Bachrach, D. G. (2001). Tolerance of free-riding: The effects of defection size, defection pattern and social orientation in a repeated public goods dilemma. Manuscript submitted for publication.Google Scholar
  9. Cornes, R., Sandler, T. (1996). The Theory of Externalities, Public Goods, and Club Goods. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Davis, D. D., Holt, C. A. (1993): Experimental Economics, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Dawes, R. M. (1975). Formal models of dilemmas in social decision-making. In M. F. Kaplan & S. Schwartz (eds.), Human Judgment and Decision Processes. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  12. De Cremer, D., Van Dijk, E. (2002). Perceived criticality and contributions in public good dilemmas: A matter of feeling responsible to all? Group Processes and Intergroup Relations, 5, 319–332.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Deutsch, M. (1958). The effect of motivational orientation upon trust and suspicion. Human Relations, 13, 123–139.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dorsey, R. E. (1992). The voluntary contributions mechanism with real time revisions. Public Choice, 73, 261–282.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Erev, I., Rapoport, A. (1990). Provision of step-level public goods: The sequential contribution mechanism. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 34, 401–425.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Goren, H., Kurzban, R., Rapoport, A. (2003). Social loafing vs. social enhancement: Public good provisioning in real time with irrevocable commitments. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 90, 277–290.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Goren, H., Rapoport, A., Kurzban, R. (2004). Revocable commitments to public goods provision under the real-time protocol of play. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, 17, 17–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hardin, G. (1968). The tragedy of the commons. Science, 162, 1243–1248.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Kerr, N. L. (1989). Illusions of efficacy: The effects of group size on perceived efficacy in social dilemmas. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 25, 287–313.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kerr, N. L. (1992). Efficacy as a causal and moderating variable in social dilemmas. In W. Liebrand, D. Messick & H. Wilke, (eds.), A Social Psychological Approach to Social Dilemmas. New York: Pergamon Press.Google Scholar
  21. Kollock, P. (1998). Social dilemmas: The anatomy of cooperation. Annual Review of Sociology, 24, 183–214.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Komorita, S. S., Parks, C. D. (1994). Social Dilemmas. Madision, WI: Brown & Benchmark.Google Scholar
  23. Kurzban, R., McCabe, K., Smith, V. L., Wilson, B. J. (2001). Incremental commitment and reciprocity in a real-time public goods game. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 27, 1662–1673.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Liebrand, W. B. G. (1984). The effect of social motives, communication, and group size on behavior in an N-person multi-stage mixed-motive game. European Journal of Social Psychology, 14, 239–264.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Liebrand, W. B. G., McClintock, C. G. (1988). The ring measure of social values: A computerized procedure for assessing individual differences in information processing and social value orientation. European Journal of Personality, 2, 217–230.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Macy, M. W. (1990). Learning theory and the logic of critical mass. American Sociological Review, 55, 809–826.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Marwell, G., Ames, R. (1981). Economists free ride, does anyone else? Experiments on the provision of public goods, IV. Journal of Public Economics, 15, 295–310.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. McClintock, C. G. (1972). Social motivation—A set of propositions. Behavioral Science, 17, 438–454.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. McClintock, C. G. (1988). Evolution, systems of interdependence, and social values. Behavioral Science, 33, 59–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Oliver, P. E., Marwell, G. (1988). The paradox of group size in collective action: A theory of the critical mass, III. American Sociological Review, 53, 1–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Oliver, P. E., Marwell, G., Teixeira, R. (1985). A theory of the critical mass, I.: Interdependence, group heterogeneity, and the production of collective goods. American Journal of Sociology, 91, 522–556.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Olson, M. (1965). The Logic of Collective Action. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  33. Parks, C. D. (1994). The predictive ability of social values in resources dilemmas and public goods games. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 20, 431–438.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Platt, J. (1973). Social traps. American Psychologist, 28, 641–651.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Rapoport, A. (1988). Provision of step-level public goods: Effects of inequality in resources. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 45, 432–440.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Roch, S. G., Samuelson, C. D. (1997). Effects of environmental uncertainty and social value orientation in resource dilemmas. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 70, 221–235.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Schelling, T. C. (1973). Hockey helmets, concealed weapons, and daylight saving: Binary choices with externalities. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 17, 381–428.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Taylor, M. (1987). The Possibility of Cooperation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Chi Sing Ngan
    • 1
  • Wing Tung Au
    • 1
  1. 1.The Chinese University of Hong KongChina

Personalised recommendations