The Wary Guerrillla, Part IV: An Experiment

Participants were recruited from a large midwestern university. The undergraduates were mostly traditional college age (93% were between 19 and 23). There were 90 males and 87 females. The experiment was designed and implemented using Medialab software. The participants answered questions and played the economic games on a computer. Steps were taken to create the false impression that participants were playing against other humans. At the beginning of the experiment, we asked participants if we could take their picture to use as an avatar for game play. This deception was designed to increase the perception that participants were playing against other human beings.

The game was organized as follows. Participants began the survey and were informed they would earn extra credit points for their actions. A series of distractor questions was asked and a distractor public goods game was played. Near the end of the experiment, the students were informed another student was given five additional extra credit points to divide and chose to keep four and give away one. Participants were informed that they could accept or reject this, where accepting meant the split stood as it was and rejecting meant that neither the participant nor the confederate would earn these additional points. Students who accepted the unfair split are considered either egoists or altruists. Students who rejected were considered wary cooperators.

After the rejection, an opportunity for punishment was given to the students. They were informed that they could use the points they had already gained by participating in the experiment in order to deduct the same amount of points from the other player. Participants who also accepted this second opportunity for punishment – those who would incur acute personal costs in order to punish injustice – are classified as Wary Guerrillas. Additionally, students who accepted the unfair split were also given the opportunity to punish. Participants that accepted and then punished are termed “Other Guerrillas” and are not covered by our theory.

The experiment is visually laid out below:

This paper focuses primarily on the Wary Guerrilla type as a sub-type of the Classic Wary Cooperator. The Egoist and Altruist types have been extensively explored elsewhere in the literature (Becker, 1976; Monroe, 1994). A few words exploring the “Other Guerrillas” are offered at the end of the results section.


The Wary Guerrilla, a tdaxp series
1. Abstract
2. Terrorism
3. Predictions
4. An Experiment
5. Results
6. Absolute Guerrilla
7. Those Who Cause Less Pain
8. Future Research
9. Political Implications
10. Bibliography