Spillover effects of cooperative behaviour when switching tasks: the role of gender

Published: 7 May 2024| Version 1 | DOI: 10.17632/53nkbn7jf5.1
Ludovica Spinola, Valeria Maggian


The main goal of our research is to investigate whether there are differences between males and females in transferring behaviours between tasks characterized by high level of competitiveness to low level of competitiveness, and vice versa. For this purpose, we run a laboratory experiment to study whether males and females differently spill over their cooperative behaviour when playing indefinitely repeated Prisoner’s Dilemmas, distinguished by two different levels of the competitiveness-cooperativeness index (CCI, Demuynck et al., 2022). Additionally, as the importance placed on competitiveness might differently impacts males and females’ attitudes towards the task, in our Decomposition treatment we present the Prisoner’s Dilemma as the sum of its zero-sum component and its common interest component. We find that both males and females cooperate significantly more when playing the highly cooperative indefinitely repeated Prisoner’s Dilemma than when playing the highly competitive indefinitely repeated Prisoner’s Dilemma. Notwithstanding, the choice architecture intervention has a different effect depending on whether the Prisoner’s Dilemma is highly competitive or highly cooperative. Specifically, when the payoff matrix is presented in a decomposed form rather than in a standard form, cooperation increases in the highly competitive setting but not in the highly cooperative one. Furthermore, there are no gender differences in cooperation rates in both highly competitive and highly cooperative Prisoner’s Dilemmas, nor the choice architecture intervention affects differently the cooperative behaviours of males and females. Addressing our main research question, our findings indicate that when moving from a highly cooperative Prisoner’s Dilemma to a highly competitive one, females cooperate significantly more than males. However, the reverse is not observed: we find no gender differences in the cooperation rate when moving from a highly competitive Prisoner’s Dilemma to a highly cooperative one. This result is not driven by whether the Prisoner’s Dilemma is presented in standard form or in decomposed form.



Experiment in Economics