4.2 Sustainability of Public Goods in a Changing Society

Project info

We examine the conditions for the sustainability of public good provisions under changing group compositions, by specifying the role of social norm formation and social norm conflict. We mainly conduct lab experiments on variants of the public goods game.
Project start
End date
Behavioral theory
  • Goals
  • Identities
Utrecht University
Utrecht University
Utrecht University
  • Cooperation
  • Newcomer
  • Norm
  • Normative Conflict
  • Public good game
  • Public good provision
  • Social dilemma
  • Sociology
  • (Experimental) economics
  • Psychology
  • Social psychology
  • Sociology
Work package
  • Inclusion
  • Theory
Sustainability threat
  • External Shocks
  • Accommodating newcomers
Theoretical background
The sustainability of cooperation crucially depends on whether people are willing to invest in the provision of joint outcomes when the composition of the group changes over time, or when institutional arrangements shift. This is put to the test when newcomers enter the group, without being aware of what is expected of them. Maintaining cooperation under changing circumstances is particularly challenging when groups of people that initially might have different norms or incentives come together and have to produce public goods jointly. The aim of this project is to systematically examine the causal impact of key variables of interest on the continued provision of public goods.
Research design
The relations between model variables will be tested in variations of the public good game, a common paradigm for studying cooperation in groups. In one experiment, we manipulate the level of normative disagreement between newcomers and incumbents, in another experiment we manipulate whether newcomers and incumbents have the same incentives to contribute to a group-level and global-level public good. We also examine an existing online multiplayer game that incorporates a public goods game in its design. We finally aim to conduct a field experiment on how persons react to norm enforcement and how this depends on whether the norm enforces is a newcomer of incumbent.
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