We conduct experiments in multi-generational social dilemmas in which we examine the transmission of individual behaviors within and among groups of experimental participants. These experiments allow us to observe the cultural evolution of cooperation over time, including the roles of institutions, communication, and social learning. We conduct computerized experiments in a lab at UC Davis as well as online experiments using Mechanical Turk.
Multigenerational experiments provide a valuable addition to the range of experiments commonly used in behavioral economics because they focus on the transmission of individual behaviors within and among groups of experimental participants. Thus, these experiments can be used to test important predictions from cultural evolutionary theory about the spread of cooperative norms in structured populations. Furthermore, multigenerational experiments mirror an important aspect of real-world cooperative dilemmas in which norms are transmitted among individuals who enter and leave the collaborative arena. We vary the range of institutional options available to experimental participants and examine the resultant evolution of cooperative norms across multiple generations.