To cooperate or not to cooperate? An analysis of cooperation and peer punishment among Syrian refugees, Germans, and Jordanians

Release date: 2022-03

Do Syrian civil war victims living in exile treat other Syrian refugees more favorably compared to members of the hosting society? We answer this question by analyzing cooperation decisions in a prisoner’s dilemma with a second stage including punishment among Syrian refugees, Germans, and Jordanians, in two host countries, Germany and Jordan. We find that Syrian refugees are more likely to cooperate when they are interacting with another refugee than when they are interacting with a German or a Jordanian participant. We find opposite results for both Germans and Jordanians who cooperate more when playing with Syrians than within their own group. Self-reported feelings of refugees suggest that in-group favoritism rather than out-group hostility drives this result, while punishment of defecting in-group and out-group members does not differ significantly for all groups. Thus, in-group favoritism seems to be a selective inclination that disappears when it clashes with other characteristics like reciprocity.

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