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Regular version of the site

Article

Strike one hundred to educate one: Measuring the efficacy of collective sanctions experimentally

Plos One. 2021. Vol. 16. No. 04. P. 1-21.

In this paper, we test whether sanctions applied to an entire group on account of the free-riding of one of its members can promote group cooperation. To measure the efficiency of such collective sanctions, we conducted a lab experiment based on a standard public good game. The results show that, overall, collective sanctions are ineffective. Moreover, when subjects are able to punish their peers, the level of cooperation is lower in the regime of collective sanctions than under individual sanctions. Both outcomes can be explained by a general disapproval of the collective responsibility for an individual fault: in the post-experimental survey, an absolute majority evaluated such regimes as unfair. While collective sanctions are not an effective means for boosting group compliance, there are nevertheless two insights to be gained here. First, there are differences across genders: under collective sanctions, men’s level of compliance is significantly higher than under individual sanctions, while the opposite is true for women. Second, there were intriguing differences in outcomes between the different regime types. Under collective sanctions, a person who is caught tends to comply in the future, at least in the short term. By contrast, under individual sanctions, an individual wrongdoer decreases his or her level of compliance in the next period.