PPE's new lecturer, Dr. Giuseppe Danese, recently published a new work "The Circulation of Worthless Tokens Aids Cooperation: An Experiment Inspired by the Kula"
Many anthropological records exist of seemingly worthless tokens exchanged in traditional societies. The most famous instances of such tokens are probably the Kula necklaces and armbands first described by B. Malinowski. In our experiment, each participant can send a token to another participant before each round of a repeated public good game. We use as examples of tokens a bracelet built by the participants in the lab, a simple piece of cardboard provided by the experimenter, and an object brought from home by the participants. Notwithstanding the cheap-talk nature of the decision to send the token, both sending and receiving the token are associated with a significant increase in contributions to the public good. Regression analysis shows that contributions to the public good in the treatments featuring a bracelet and a cardboard piece are higher than in a control study. The home object appears not to have been equally useful in increasing contributions.