Friday, May 30, 2008

Game Theory: Freeloaders Strike Back Against Society's Most Productive

I saw this piece on game theory in this morning's Wall Street Journal, but didn't consider posting on it. Neptunus has his take, so I'll let it rip after all with a cover post:

The WSJ has an interesting article in the front section about game theory, specifically a game which allows players to pool resources and receive rewards. In order to test how different cultures deal with collaboration - and, equally important - non-contributors, players are allowed to hoard their own resources and still share in the general spoils, thus becoming freeloadoers. The next twist is to allow contributors to punish freeloaders, which in many cultures shames them into contributing to the general fund.

Many cultures, but not all:

Among students in the U.S., Switzerland, China and the U.K., those identified as freeloaders most often took their punishment as a spur to contribute more generously. But in Oman, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Greece and Russia, the freeloaders more often struck back, retaliating against those who punished them, even against those who had given most to everyone’s benefit. It was akin to rapping the knuckles of the helping hand.


And perfect!