To promote the common good, should helpers be rewarded, or should free riders be punished? Although the bulk of previous research has fingered punishment as the best enforcer, a new study published online today in Science found that rewards are more effective. […]
He and his team used a classic public goods game to study how groups of volunteers encouraged the best outcome for the most people. In a series of monetary interactions, individuals decided how much money to contribute to a common pot, and they could then decide whether to reward good contributors or punish bad—both of which would entail spending money.
Previous public goods studies had focused on one-time interactions and found that people were more likely to swindle or punish others. But in situations where interactions were repeated, people found greater success in reward-based structures—in which those that contributed were rewarded and those who didn’t were ignored—than those in which costly punishment was doled out to those who didn’t contribute.
(via Relevant History)