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Voluntary disclosure of contributions: an experimental study on nonmandatory approaches for improving public good provision

Ursula W. Kreitmair, Indiana University


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There has been an increasing interest in nonpecuniary measures to encourage prosocial behavior. Among these is the use of social comparison, or social information. Although successful in promoting, for instance, greater resource conservation, studies of this measure have so far relied on the assumption of the availability of social information. In situations in which information is costly to collect and disseminate, alternative mechanisms must be considered. This study explores the use of voluntary disclosure to provide social information in a linear public goods game in a lab experiment. It finds that individuals tend to disclose their contribution information when given the option, suggesting that voluntarily disclosed social information remains a possible policy option when the cost of information collection is high. In addition, voluntarily revealed contributions are significantly higher than contributions under mandated disclosure, leading to greater cooperation in the voluntary disclosure treatments under certain circumstances. Finally, evidence is provided that voluntary disclosure may be helpful in attenuating the boomerang effect, i.e., when high contributors reduce their contributions in response to social information.

Key words

behavioral information; cooperation; experiment; public goods; social comparison; social information; social norms; voluntary disclosure

Copyright © 2015 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087