Rich Communication and Coordinated Resistance against Divide-and-Conquer: A Laboratory Investigation*
Published on Jan 1, 2010
This paper presents a laboratory experiment to investigate how computer-mediated free form communication (Rich Communication) can facilitate coordinated resistance against leader misbehavior. In the Coordinated Resistance game, a leader first decides whether to practice divide-and-conquer, in which he extracts surplus from a victim and shares it with a beneficiary to gain the latter’s support. Using content analysis, we provide direct evidence that the beneficiaries and the victims of divide-and-conquer transgressions communicate and behave differently. Victims more quickly and vigorously engage in communication, urging the beneficiary to “be fair,” while beneficiaries propose to acquiesce more frequently. The successful joint resistance rate increases almost four-fold (from 15 to 58 percent) when moving from the more restrictive communication treatments to Rich Communication. Comparisons across the communication treatments further suggest that the significant impacts of rich communication are driven more by the responders’ ability to engage in rich discussion rather than the multiple and iterative opportunities to indicate intentions.