January 10th, 2018
Article review: Reward, Punishment and Cooperation
The effectiveness of rewards and punishment in modifying an individual’s behavior has been debated widely. This has especially been the case in social dilemmas – situations where self and collective interests conflict. Whereas some opinions are that punishment and rewards ensure cooperation in such dilemmas (e.g. Sigmund, 2007 as cited in Balliet, Mulder & Van Lange, 2011, p. 594), others abound that such incentives may undermine cooperation, for instance, by lowering “autonomy and the intrinsic motivation to cooperate” (Deci & Ryan, 2000 as cited in Balliet, Mulder & Van Lange, 2011, p. 595). The article by Balliet, Mulder and Van Lange (2011) expounds on effectiveness of rewards and punishments (referred as incentives in the article), on ensuring cooperation in social dilemmas.
To evaluate the effect of incentives on cooperation in social dilemmas, the authors, through a review of literature, identify three hypotheses that guide their study. Firstly, the authors hypothesize that incentives would increase cooperation. Secondly, Balliet, Mulder and Van Lange (2011) hypothesize that incentives that bear a cost to the administrator would be more effective than those that are not associated with such a cost. A third hypothesis derives from arguments indicating that incentives provided by participants in the social dilemma would be more effective than those provided by third parties (e.g. authorities and experimenters). Accordingly, the authors hypothesize that a centralized incentive system – that in which third parties offer the rewards or punishments – would be less effective than decentralized systems – those in which participants offer such incentives. Go to the methodology part.