Brian MacMillan

03 Public Goods Game

BM Public Goods Game

Public Goods Game

This Public Goods Game Project is an on-line version of one of the most common psychological research tools, the public goods game, which is an outgrowth of the seminal work by the economist John Nash. The project has three goals, to conduct (cross-cultural) research on cooperative behavior, to create a teaching tool for classes in experimental design, and to create a fun game that people want to play.

Thus far I have, with my collaborator Julian Wills, conducted 28 experiments, with NYU Psych students and corporate executives. Our experimental model was designed so that the “maximized utility” scenario required general collaboration, and was easily disrupted by selfish behavior (My paper’s working title is “Maximization versus Winning”) Our work’s most interesting result is the two games out of 28 in which the players figured out that collaboration was the winning strategy and then didn’t deviate from this strategy in order to do better than competing players. In most of the games winning was prioritized over maximization.

In addition to furthering my research on winning versus maximization, I would like to create a platform where others could use this tool to conduct their own research.
To achieve this goal I need to be sponsored to create an “experiment creation” interface. The game itself has been repeatedly tested, and is remarkably robust. The message server has been running on a ubuntu server for years without any sort of intervention, for example. All I need to do is create an interface to let users set game parameters, for example, number of players, whether punishment is allowed, whether punishment is weighted etc. The game itself is “paramaterized” so once these options are set the game will record itself. A second addition, is the facility to collect demographic data. Demographic data always has the potential to be more contentious so collecting it is a secondary goal.