What is it about?

We simulate human behavior in dilemmas and propose a model for social preferences that may explain behavior. Our simulation can replicate the behavior in previous experiments, and we can analyze the underlying motives with our model. We use a reinforcement algorithm and novel software to program the agent-based simulation - EconSim. The dilemma is a public goods game with the possibility to vote for punishment institutions.

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Why is it important?

The combination of experimental evidence and simulations is a fruitful avenue to better understand human behavior. Our social preference model combines different motives that previous research found to be relevant for explaining behavior in social interactions. We argue that our approach can be generalized to complex simulations of human behavior.


We started this paper when I was an interim professor at Clausthal University of Technology and Janis Kesten-Kühne finished his Ph.D. In his dissertation, he programmed, with the supervision of Prof. Mathias Erlei, the modular framework EconSim. We had the idea to use EconSim to deeper understand the results of my paper together with Prof. Astrid Dannenberg from the University of Kassel published in 2021in the European Economic Review - The demand for punishment to promote cooperation among like-minded people. Jan Haarde was a student helper at my chair in Clausthal and put a lot of work into the simulations. I hired Christian Hirschmann to work as a research assistant at my chair. He wrote his master thesis on social preferences in the public goods game. Besides teaching, Christian did a great job working with EconSim and combining the simulation with Janis's and my ideas on social preference models that may further explain the experimental behavior. As a team, we (Jan, Christian, Janis, and I) are proud that we were able to shed more light on human behavior in dilemmas.

Christoph Bühren
Universitat Kassel

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This page is a summary of: Social preferences in the public goods game–An Agent-Based simulation with EconSim, PLoS ONE, March 2023, PLOS, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0282112.
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