The Use and Misuse of Coordinated Punishments

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3 Scopus citations


Communication facilitates cooperation by ensuring that deviators are collectively punished. We explore how players might misuse communication to threaten one another, and we identify ways that organizations can deter misuse and restore cooperation. In our model, a principal plays trust games with a sequence of short-run agents who communicate with each other. An agent can shirk and then extort pay by threatening to report that the principal deviated. We show that these threats can completely undermine cooperation. Investigations of agents' efforts, or dyadic relationships between the principal and each agent, can deter extortion and restore some cooperation. Investigations of the principal's action, on the other hand, typically do not help. Our analysis suggests that collective punishments are vulnerable to misuse unless they are designed with an eye toward discouraging it.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)471-504
Number of pages34
JournalQuarterly Journal of Economics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics and Econometrics


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