Self-Sacrifice for the Common Good under Risk and CompetitionJournal of Public Administration Research and Theory2022, 32(1). with Arjen van Witteloostuijnand Tse-Min Wang Abstract: Public service-motivated individuals have a greater concern for the delivery of public services and for the societal consequence of collective inaction, seeing themselves play a pivotal role in upholding public goods. Such self-efficacy and perceived importance of public service jointly motivate individuals to commit to sacrificing for the common good. Using an incentivized laboratory experiment with 126 undergraduate and graduate students at a university in the Netherlands, we explore the association between self-reported Public Service Motivation (PSM) and voluntary self-sacrifice under different task characteristics and social contexts in a Volunteer’s Dilemma game. We find that risk-taking and intergroup competition negatively moderate the positive effect of PSM on volunteering. The risky situation may reduce an individual’s self-efficacy in making meaningful sacrifice, and intergroup competition may divert attention away from the concern for society at large to the outcome of the competition, compromising the positive effect of PSM on the likelihood to self-sacrifice for the common good.
Using moral foundations in government communication to reduce vaccine hesitancyPLOS ONE2021, 16(11). with Ennie Wolters Abstract: Having a vaccine available does not necessarily imply that it will be used. Indeed, uptake rates for existing vaccines against infectious diseases have been fluctuating in recent years. Literature suggests that vaccine hesitancy may be grounded in deeply rooted intuitions or values, which can be modelled using Moral Foundations Theory (MFT). We examine the respective prominence of the MFT dimensions in government communication regarding childhood vaccinations and explore its effect on parents’ vaccine hesitancy. We measure the MFT dimension loading of the vaccination information brochures from the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) between 2011-2019 and connect this information with the electronic national immunisation register to investigate if the use of moral foundations in government communication has a measurable effect on vaccination uptake. We find the largest positive effect for the dimensions Authority/Subversion and Liberty/Oppression and suggestive evidence in favour of a small positive effect for Purity/Degradation. Conversely, Loyalty/Betrayal actually has a negative effect on vaccination rates. For the dimension Harm/Care, we find no significant effect. While Purity/Degradation and Harm/Care appear to be the two most frequently used moral foundations by RIVM, these dimensions have in fact no or only a minor effect on parents’ vaccine hesitancy. Reducing the use of these moral foundations may be the first step towards optimising government communication in this context. Instead, formulations activating the moral foundations Authority/Subversion and Liberty/Oppression appear to have positive effects on vaccination uptake.
A Moral Theory of Public Service MotivationFrontiers in Psychology2020, 11. with Tse-Min Wang and Arjen van Witteloostuijn Abstract: Morality constructs the relationship between the self and others, providing a sense of appropriateness that facilitates and coordinates social behaviors. We start from Moral Foundation Theory (MFT), and argue that multiple moral domains can shape the meaning of public service and engender Public Service Motivation (PSM). From the lens of cognitive science, we develop a causal map for PSM by understanding the social cognition process underlying PSM, focusing on five innate moralities as the potential antecedents of PSM: Care, Fairness, Authority, Loyalty, and Sanctity. Extending moral domains beyond compassion and justice can provide a disaggregated view of PSM, which may help to identify institutional and cultural variation in the meaning of PSM. We discuss the theoretical implications of synthesizing MFT and PSM literatures, and provide directions for future research that could improve our understanding of PSM.
Reward and punishment in a team contestPLOS ONE2020, 15(9). with Martin Strobel Abstract: A team contest entails both public good characteristics within the teams as well as a contest across teams. In an experimental study, we analyse behaviour in such a team contest when allowing to punish or to reward other team members. Moreover, we compare two types of contest environment: One in which two teams compete for a prize and another one in which we switch off the between-group element of the contest. We find that reward giving, as opposed to punishing, induces higher contributions to the team contest. Furthermore, expenditures on rewarding other co-players are significantly higher than those for punishing.
To Tender or Not to Tender? Deliberate and Exogenous Sunk Costs in a Public Good GameGames2018, 9, 41. with Martin Sefton Abstract: In an experimental study, we compare individual willingness to cooperate in a public good game after an initial team contest phase. While players in the treatment setup make a conscious decision on how much to invest in the contest, this decision is exogenously imposed on players in the control setup. As such, both groups of players incur sunk costs and enter the public good game with different wealth levels. Our results indicate that the way these sunk costs have been accrued matters especially for groups on the losing side of the contest: Given the same level of sunk costs, contributions to the public good are lower for groups which failed to be successful in the preceding between-group contest. Furthermore, this detrimental effect is more pronounced for individuals who play a contest with deliberate contributions before.
Contests for Public GoodsDoctoral Thesis2017 Abstract: Competitive situations are ubiquitous in society. From international conflicts for resources to the daily competition for clients, a finite amount of wealth (and attention) has to be allotted between stakeholders. This happens on various layers of society and with different degrees of hostility. Using the controlled environment of laboratory experiments, I investigate the role of fundamental institutions in situations where groups compete for a prize of fixed or endogenous size. My research has shown that in a competitive environment, groups oftentimes do not use interaction mechanisms to coordinate towards a more efficient outcome. Instead, participants incentivise their teammates to pursue a more aggressive strategy to outdo the opposing group, beyond a financially prudent level of appropriation