Predicting Group Contribution Behaviour in a Public Goods Game from Face-to-Face Communication

Sensors (Basel). 2019 Jun 21;19(12):2786. doi: 10.3390/s19122786.


Experimental economic laboratories run many studies to test theoretical predictions with actual human behaviour, including public goods games. With this experiment, participants in a group have the option to invest money in a public account or to keep it. All the invested money is multiplied and then evenly distributed. This structure incentivizes free riding, resulting in contributions to the public goods declining over time. Face-to-face Communication (FFC) diminishes free riding and thus positively affects contribution behaviour, but the question of how has remained mostly unknown. In this paper, we investigate two communication channels, aiming to explain what promotes cooperation and discourages free riding. Firstly, the facial expressions of the group in the 3-minute FFC videos are automatically analysed to predict the group behaviour towards the end of the game. The proposed automatic facial expressions analysis approach uses a new group activity descriptor and utilises random forest classification. Secondly, the contents of FFC are investigated by categorising strategy-relevant topics and using meta-data. The results show that it is possible to predict whether the group will fully contribute to the end of the games based on facial expression data from three minutes of FFC, but deeper understanding requires a larger dataset. Facial expression analysis and content analysis found that FFC and talking until the very end had a significant, positive effect on the contributions.

Keywords: face-to-face communications (FFC); facial activity descriptors (FADs); group activity descriptors (GADs); public goods game; random forest classification (RFc); voluntary contribution mechanism (VCM).

MeSH terms

  • Communication*
  • Cooperative Behavior
  • Facial Expression*
  • Game Theory
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Social Behavior