Author (Your Name)

Hannah M. DavidsenFollow

Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis (Open Access)


Colby College. Economics Dept.


Tim Hubbard


Our personality and preferences play a major role in the decisions we make in our everyday lives. Drawing from literature exploring how people innovate under different scenarios (Dubina, 2013), the present study expanded this topic to include any scenario where there is incentive to free-ride off of another’s effort. I designed a study in which participants (N=73) were asked to complete the Big 5 personality questionnaire, a cognitive reflection task, an altruism elicitation task, and a risk elicitation task, then were randomly paired with another participant to complete four different rounds of a public goods game. Each round of the game involved a unique incentive structure, in which participants could choose to be generous or to free-ride off of their partner’s contributions. Participants were more likely to act generously in a cooperative environment than a control environment, and were even more likely to act generously under a competitive environment. Additionally, altruistic participants were more likely to act generously across all rounds. However, personality traits and risk preferences did not play a major role in participants’ behavior in the public goods game. These findings provide some insights into which factors drive human behavior and decision making when there is incentive to free-ride, and specifically show that economic incentives are the strongest driving force in these scenarios.


Game Theory, Behavior, Incentives, Behavioral Economics, Experimental Economics, Public Goods