DR@W Forum Online: Felix Kölle (Universität zu Köln)
In today's highly complex economic environment, cooperation among individuals is crucial for organizational and societal success. Most of the situations in which cooperation is required involve costly efforts whose consequences play out over time. Here, we provide a systematic and comprehensive analysis of cooperation in an intertemporal context. We show that cooperation is substantially reduced when the benefits of cooperation are shifted towards the future, and increased when the costs are delayed. Our analysis further reveals that the change in cooperation can be explained by (i) a shift in the beliefs about others' actions, (ii) a shift in the willingness to conditionally cooperate, and (iii) an individual's degree of impatience. Despite these shifts at the behavioral level, we find that social norms of cooperation are unaffected by the timing of consequences, indicating that the shifts in behavior are due to a change in norm compliance rather than the norm itself. Finally, we demonstrate that the amount of economic incentives needed to close the cooperation gap are substantial, thereby providing policy makers with a useful estimate for conducting cost-benefit analyses.