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Unintended consequences of cooperation inducing mechanisms in public goods dilemmas: Sanctions and moral appeals


Group Process and Inter-group Relations


Organisational Behaviour

Authors / Editors

Chen X P;Pillutla M M;Yao X


Publication Year



Research suggests that contribution to public goods (i.e. cooperation) will increase when groups use sanctions. We argue that when groups use rewards and punishments to induce members to cooperate in a social dilemma, individuals' natural propensity to cooperate may be reduced. Results from two laboratory experiments provide consistent support for our hypothesis. Specifically, we found that cooperation (in groups that adopted sanctioning systems, including both reward and punishment) decreased significantly following the removal of sanctioning systems. We also found that a moral appeal to cooperate was as effective as sanctions in inducing cooperation. Moreover, cooperation induced through appeals was more likely to sustain than that induced through sanctions. We found that people's trust in others' cooperation mediated the relationship between the use of sanctions and appeals and the level of cooperation after these inducing practices were removed. Implications of these results are discussed in the group and organizational context.


Cooperation; Moral appeals; Public goods dilemma; Sanctions

Available on ECCH


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