“Social Learning in Experimental Games: Evidence from Rwanda”

On Wednesday, November 4th, at 2.30pm, the NOVAFRICA Center welcomes Alexander Coutts, from Nova School of Business and Economics to present his work on social learning in public goods games in Rwanda.

Alexander Coutts

Artefactual and lab experiments are increasingly utilized to study variation in preferences across groups and the relationship between preferences and economic outcomes. Social learning across experimental sessions is rarely considered within the literature and not well understood, but may alter the validity of such studies. In this paper I provide evidence of social learning during a large implementation of public goods games in the Rusizi district in Rwanda. Contact with previous participants led to significant behavioral change, despite theoretical predictions that such contact will have no effects. Using GPS data on over 1,700 participants across 150 villages I document an increasing pattern of contributions in public goods games over space and time. An investigation of the mechanism behind the effect finds that it is strongest for individuals who exhibit conditionally cooperative behavior, suggestive that contact involves social learning about cooperative norms.