Public-goods games under time pressure

Department of Mathematics, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria

Christian Hilbe

Christian Hilbe

A group’s public goods require costly investments by individual group members while benefiting all group members irrespective of their investments. This leads to a so-called social dilemma: as non-contributors cannot be excluded from the benefits of the public good, there is a strong incentive for free riding.

Much research in the last decade has focused on public-goods games and on mechanisms that maintain cooperation, such as punishment of non-contributors or voluntary participation. However, important examples of public goods contain the strategic element of time, which has largely been neglected by both experimental studies and theoretical analysis to date. Without explicitly incorporating a temporal dimension, important features of several public goods are not adequately captured.

Real-world examples, including investments into the prevention of climate change or effort levels in joint projects, suggest that the strategy “wait and see” plays a key role. Both examples are characterized by time pressure: joint projects usually have a deadline, and actions against climate change are more effective the earlier they are implemented. In order to incorporate temporal effects into the analysis of public-goods games, we consider an evolutionary model in which each individual determines not only the amount but also the timing of its investments.

We include time pressure by assuming that the effectiveness of contributions to, or the benefits derived from, the public good change over time. The resultant evolution of strategies will be explored using analytical adaptive-dynamics techniques and agent-based simulations.

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Last edited: 24 March 2016

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