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Cooperation and Status in Organizations


  • Catherine C. Eckel, School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences, University of Texas at Dallas, Richardson, TX 75080 ( Enrique Fatas, University of Valencia, Campus Tarongers, 46022 Valencia, Spain (fatas@uv.ns). Rick Wilson, Department of Political Science, Rice University, Houston, TX 77005 (

  • This research was funded in part by the National Science Foundation, SES-0318180, the Spanish Ministry of Science and Education (SEJ2007-66581 and ECO2008-04784), and the IVIE. Vishal Chanani provided excellent research assistance. The paper was completed while Fatas was a visiting scholar at the Center for Behavioral and Experimental Economic Science at the University of Texas at Dallas. Thanks to Rachel Croson, Chetan Dave, Lise Vesterlund, and two anonymous referees for valuable comments.


We report the results of experiments designed to test the effect of social status on contributions to a public good, with and without punishment. The experiments are conducted in four-person groups in a “star” network, where one central player observes and is observed by the others. This imposes a social structure on the game, and gives the central player a leadership role in the group, simply by virtue of being commonly observed. We further manipulate status by allocating the central position to the person who earns the highest, or the lowest, score on a trivia quiz. These high-status and low-status treatments are compared, and we find that the effect of organizational structure—the existence of a central position—depends on the status of the central player. Higher status players are attended to and mimicked more systematically. Punishment has differential effects in the two treatments, and is least effective in the high-status case.