Open Conference Systems, Lyon Meeting

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Cooperation in Peer Production Economy: Experimental Evidence from Wikipedia
Jérôme Hergueux, Yann Algan, Yochai Benkler, Mayo Fuster Morell

Building: Site Descartes
Room: F04
Date: 2014-06-16 11:30 AM – 12:00 PM
Last modified: 2014-06-05


The impressive success of peer production – a large-scale collaborative model of production primarily based on voluntary contributions – is difficult to explain by relying solely on standard assumptions about individual preferences. This paper studies the prosocial foundations of cooperation in Wikipedia, a peer production economy in which monetary incentives play no role in shaping individual behavior. We design an online experiment coupled with observational data to elicit social motives within a representative sample of 850 Wikipedia contributors, and use those measures to predict subjects’ field contributions to the Wikipedia project. We thus provide the first comprehensive field test of existing economic theories of prosocial motives for contributing to real-world public goods. We find that regular editors’ field contributions to Wikipedia are strongly related to their level of reciprocity in a conditional Public Goods game and in a Trust game and to their revealed preference for social image within the Wikipedia community, but not to their level of altruism either in a standard or in a directed Dictator game. The extent of participation within the group of Wikipedia administrators – who self-selected into performing a policing role within the Wikipedia community – is positively related to their revealed preference for social image but, unlike regular contributors, strongly negatively related to their level of reciprocity. Using our measure of trust in strangers from the Trust game, we show that while trust is unrelated to contribution levels among regular editors, less trusting Wikipedia administrators are significantly more active and more likely to exercise their policing rights.


Field Experiment; Public Goods; Social Preferences; Peer Production; Internet

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