How Universal is Behavior? A Four Country Comparison of Spite and Cooperation in Voluntary Contribution Mechanisms


This paper studies behavior in experiments with a linear voluntary contributions mechanism for public goods conducted in Japan, the Netherlands, Spain and the USA. The same experimental design was used in the four countries. Our 'contribution function' design allows us to obtain a view of subjects' behavior from two complementary points of view. It yields information about situations where, in purely pecuniary terms, it is a dominant strategy to contribute all the endowment and about situations where it is a dominant strategy to contribute nothing. Our results show, first, that differences in behavior across countries are minor. We find that when people play "the same game" they behave similarly. Second, for all four countries our data are inconsistent with the explanation that subjects contribute only out of confusion. A common cooperative motivation is needed to explain the data.