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We investigate the effect of a full week of sleep restriction (SR) vs. well-restedness (WR) on contributions in a common public good experiment, the voluntary contributions mechanism (VCM). We examine the effect of sleep manipulation on decisions regarding both contributions and punishment of non-contributors. Actigraphy devices are used to confirm that our random assignment to sleep condition generates significant differences in objective nightly sleep duration and sleepiness. We find that when punishment is unavailable public good contributions do not differ by SR/WR assignment. When punishment is available, we find evidence that SR subjects contribute more than WR subjects, respond more to the availability of punishment than do WR subjects, and that the availability of punishment significantly increases the contributions of SR but not WR subjects. Yet SR subjects do not punish others more or less than WR subjects. Our main findings are robust when considering compliance and sample selection. However, some findings are not robust to an alternative but less objective sleep control measure that is based partly on participants’ self-identified optimal sleep levels.


This article was originally published in PLoS ONE, volume 15, issue 10, in 2020.

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.