Does Framing Matter for Conditional Cooperation? Evidence from a Natural Field Experiment

Stephan Meier 1 , 1
  • 1 Harvard University, Stephan.Meier@bos.frb.org

Abstract

Framing a decision situation differently has affected behavior substantially in previous studies. This paper tests a framing effect in a field experiment at the University of Zurich. Each semester, every student has to decide whether to contribute to two social funds. Students were randomly informed that a high percentage of the student population contributed (or, equivalently, that a low percentage did not contribute), while others received the information that a relatively low percentage contributed (or a high percentage did not contribute).The results show the influence of framing effects is limited. People behave in a conditional cooperative way if informed either about the number of contributors or about the equivalent number of non-contributors. The positive correlation between group behavior and individual behavior is, however, weaker when the focus is on the defectors. The field experiment also shows gender differences in social comparison.

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The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy (BEJEAP) is an international forum for scholarship that employs microeconomics to analyze issues in business, consumer behavior and public policy. Topics include the interaction of firms, the functioning of markets, the effects of domestic and international policy and the design of organizations and institutions.

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