In a volunteer’s dilemma (VoD), one person must make a material sacrifice so that others benefit. If no one makes a sacrifice, everyone is worse off than a volunteer. How do people make the decision to volunteer? We explore 4 a priori strategies in a 2-person 1-shot VoD. Two strategies focus a person’s attention on either his or her own (egocentrism) or the other’s (allocentrism) highest potential payoff. The third strategy (collectivism) directs attention to both players’ payoffs and thereby maximizes joint outcomes. The fourth strategy (classic rationality) also directs attention to the other’s payoffs to enable a mixed-motive Nash equilibrium. The results of 2 experiments with a set of asymmetric games show a pattern consistent with egocentrism, yet all 4 strategies yield similar degrees of volunteering overall. Also consistent with egocentrism, respondents project their own preferred decisions onto others. We discuss the contributions of egocentric reasoning to the provision of public goods.

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