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Abstract

Questions remain about the details of the reciprocal strategies people use in the context of group cooperation. Here we report an experiment in which participants in public goods games could access information about the lowest, median, or highest contribution to the public good before making their own contribution decisions. Results suggest that people have clear preferences for particular pieces of information and that information preferences vary systematically across individuals as a function of their contribution strategies. Specifically, participants playing reciprocal strategies sought information about the median contribution, free riders preferred to view the highest contribution, and altruists had inconsistent preferences. By including a treatment in which people could pay to see information rather than obtaining it for free, we found that people were willing to incur costs to acquire information, particularly those using a reciprocal strategy. Further, adding a cost to view information decreased aggregate contributions, possibly because the motivation to induce others' reciprocal contributions diminished under these conditions. Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.