Better stuck together or free to go? Why leaving should be hard.

New paper out at the Journal of Economic Psychology. Our topic is barriers to exit from collaborative work. This is research done with Paolo Crosetto and Gerhard Riener. We conclude that higher barriers are better.
Trump would approve!
Gaudeul, A., Crosetto, P., & Riener, G. (2017). Better stuck together or free to go? Of the stability of cooperation when individuals have outside options. Journal of Economic Psychology, 59, 99–112.
More seriously, the issue is whether people should be free to leave a joint project as they please, or if there should be costs in doing so.
The answer is that it is better to be in an environment that discourages exit. This is because people underestimate the benefits of collaboration. They are too pessimistic about the likelihood that other people in the project will stay.
They leave because they expect others to leave!
Our experiment is particularly interesting because outcome of the project is stochastic. There is no guarantee that a given effort will output a given return. That makes it particularly difficult to track the level of effort exerted by others. This is relevant for a wide range of collaborative projects, where many external factors can influence the outcome. You then cannot know why the success failed.
Perfect environment for people with a paranoid personality disorder!
I should say that this topic is under-researched and there are good opportunities to further this workOne could look at a stochastic prisonners’ dilemma, like in Compte & Postlewaite (2015)¹, and add the option to exit. This would allow to test their model of “plausible cooperation” in stochastic environments.
All this to say, there is work to do, everybody welcome!
¹ Compte, O., & Postlewaite, A. (2015). Plausible cooperation. Games and Economic Behavior, 91, 45–59.

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