Leveraging the Honor Code: Public Goods Contributions under Oath - HAL-SHS - Sciences de l'Homme et de la Société Access content directly
Journal Articles Environmental and Resource Economics Year : 2022

Leveraging the Honor Code: Public Goods Contributions under Oath


Public good games are at the core of many environmental challenges. In such social dilemmas, a large share of people endorse the norm of reciprocity. A growing literature complements this finding with the observation that many players exhibit a self-serving bias in reciprocation: "weak reciprocators" increase their contributions as a function of the effort level of the other players, but less than proportionally. In this paper, we build upon a growing literature on truth-telling to argue that weak reciprocity might be best conceived not as a preference, but rather as a symptom of an internal trade-off at the player level between (i) the truthful revelation of their private reciprocal preference, and (ii) the economic incentives they face (which foster free-riding). In truth-telling experiments, many players misrepresent private information when this is to their material benefit, but to a significantly lesser extent than what would be expected based on the profit-maximizing strategy. We apply this behavioral insight to strategic situations, and test whether the preference revelation properties of the classic voluntary contribution game can be improved by offering players the possibility to sign a classic truth-telling oath. Our results suggest that the honesty oath helps increase cooperation (by 33% in our experiment). Subjects under oath contribute in a way which is more consistent with (i) the contribution they expect from the other players and (ii) their normative views about the right contribution level. As a result, the distribution of social types elicited under oath differs from the one observed in the baseline: some free-riders, and many weak reciprocators, now behave as pure reciprocators.
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halshs-03666626 , version 1 (12-05-2022)





Jérôme Hergueux, Nicolas Jacquemet, Stéphane Luchini, Jason Shogren. Leveraging the Honor Code: Public Goods Contributions under Oath. Environmental and Resource Economics, 2022, 81 (3), pp.591-616. ⟨10.1007/s10640-021-00641-2⟩. ⟨halshs-03666626⟩
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