The competitive advantage of sanctioning institutions revisited

A multi-lab replication of Gürerk, Irlenbusch and Rockenbach (2006) across 8 European countries.

We propose to replicate the influential study “The competitive advantage of sanctioning institutions” by Gürerk, Irlenbusch and Rockenbach (2006) published in Science. In this laboratory experiment groups of subjects played a public goods game, commonly used to study the fundamental problem of human cooperation. The key innovation of Gürerk et al. was to let subjects choose the institutional regime under which they wished to play the game. Subjects could choose between a sanctioning institution (SI) allowing them to sanction each other contingent on individual contributions to the public good, or a sanctioning-free institution (SFI). Gürerk et al.’s three main findings were that eventually nearly all subjects had migrated to SI, subjects in SI contributed almost all of their endowment to the public good whereas subjects in SFI contributed almost nothing, and subjects’ payoffs were higher in SI than in SFI. These findings had a transformative impact on the interdisciplinary field of research on cooperation, leading to the belief that sanctioning institutions may evolve readily in human groups, thereby enabling large-scale cooperation. However, these pivotal findings are based on a single, low-powered experiment conducted in one specific location. We seek to replicate this study in eight laboratories across Europe, and for purposes of statistical power increase the number of groups in each lab. The authors of the original study have provided us with all necessary materials. We have pre-registered our multi-lab replication including all materials at Open Science Framework and will make our materials and data publicly available. The results of our project will not only test the replicability of the original findings but also establish the generalisability of the effects related to the endogenous emergence of sanctioning institutions across different subject pools.


The competitive advantage of sanctioning institutions revisited: a multi-lab replication of Gürerk et al. 2006. Lo Iacono, S., Przepiorka, W., Buskens, V., Corten, R., van Assen, M., van de Rijt, A. (to be submitted to Science)


NWO Replication Studies 401.18.015