Institutional Effects on Committee Behavior: A Game Theory Experiment

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"Variations in political organization are endemic to any democratic society. This study seeks to analyze the effects of structural changes on a particular form of a democratic collective decision-making arrangement -- the committee. These structural differences include changes across the voting rules, information rules, and agenda rules employed in various committees. It is argued that the structural elements of a committee variously provide incentives for or constrain the strategies individuals employ when making decisions. "Formal models and game theoretic literature in political science are drawn on to outline a set of predictions as to outcomes under different committee structures. To test the claim that structure constrains individual behavior, a series of 5-person committee experiments were designed. These abstract committee games used student volunteers, with all participant interaction via a computer system. Analysis was then conducted on outcomes selected by these committees. "The results indicate that structure indeed has an effect on outcomes. An increase in the proportion of votes needed to pass a proposal increases the decision-making costs confronting individuals. A change as to the amount of information available to participants yields mixed results as participants use available institutional mechanisms to gain information in decision making. Finally, changes in the agenda rules benefit those gaining additional powers and disadvantage those with reduced agenda control. In general, the results are consistent with the predictions outlined in the dissertation. These results return to the initial observation that political organizations vary as to their outcomes, and that there are sound theoretical reasons for expecting this to be the case."



committees, game theory, institutional analysis, Workshop