Measuring Conditional Cooperation: A Replication Study In Russia

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Exp Econ (2009) 12: 87–92
DOI 10.1007/s10683-008-9197-1

Measuring conditional cooperation: a replication study in Russia
Benedikt Herrmann · Christian Thöni

Received: 29 August 2007 / Accepted: 30 January 2008 / Published online: 10 April 2008
© Economic Science Association 2008

Abstract We replicate the strategy-method experiment by Fischbacher et al. (Econ.
Lett. 71:397–404, 2001) developed to measure attitudes towards cooperation in a one-shot public goods game. We collected data from 160 students at four different universities across urban and rural Russia. Using the classification proposed by
Fischbacher et al. (2001) we find that the distribution of types is very similar across the four locations. The share of conditional cooperators in our Russian subject pools is comparable to the one found by Fischbacher et al. in a Swiss subject pool. However, the distribution of the other types differs from the one found in Switzerland.
Keywords Conditional cooperation · Replication · Russia
JEL Classification H41 · C91 · C72

We are grateful for the invaluable research assistance provided by Sergei Zorya, Lena Gerasimenko,
Michael Belaev, Jevgenji Maslukov, Alexei Bibikov and Valerie Kowalenko. We also would like to thank the Universities of Agricultural Sciences Brijansk (Kokino), Samara (Ust-Kinel), the Belgorod
State Technical Academy of Building Materials, and the All-Russian Distance Institute of Finance and Economics (ARDIFE) in Kursk for supporting us with the necessary infrastructure and Hans
Kolb-Wellpappe Ltd. for the donation of cardboard screens used in the experiments. We are grateful for comments from Tim Cason, Therese Faessler, Simon Gächter, Nikhil Masters, and two anonymous referees.
Electronic supplementary material The online version of this article
( contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
B. Herrmann ( )
School of Economics, University of Nottingham, University Park, NG7 2RD Nottingham, UK e-mail:
C. Thöni
University of St. Gallen, FEW-HSG, Varnbüelstrasse 14, 9000 St. Gallen, Switzerland e-mail:


B. Herrmann, C. Thöni

1 Introduction
Understanding people’s attitude towards cooperation in social dilemma situations is important for a number of theoretical and policy reasons.1 To measure attitudes towards cooperation, Fischbacher et al. (2001) introduced a public goods experiment based on the strategy method. They show that roughly half of their subjects are conditional cooperators, between 20 and 30 percent are free-riders and the rest follows other patterns.2 Fischbacher et al. conducted their experiment with students in Zurich
(Switzerland). This begs the question whether their results can be generalized to other subject pools.
In this study we replicate the experiment by Fischbacher et al. in Russia. Russia is interesting for testing the robustness of the Fischbacher et al. findings because strong socio-economic and cultural differences exist between Russia and Switzerland. These differences might translate into differences of measured cooperation preferences, as there is evidence that cultural backgrounds might matter for cooperation
(e.g., Gächter et al. 2005; Kocher et al. 2007). We replicate the Fischbacher et al. experiment in four locations. This provides us with a strong robustness test for replicability because it allows for separating replicability within a society from potential cultural differences that might exist between societies.3

2 Experimental design and procedures
To measure conditional cooperation we used the exact same protocol as Fischbacher et al., which allows for the elicitation of subjects’ preferences with regard to conditional cooperation. This design uses a variant of the strategy method. The subjects’ task is to choose their contribution conditional on the average contribution of the other subjects in the group.
The basic decision