Bednarik P, Bayer J, Magnuszewski P, & Dieckmann U (2019). A game of common-pool resource management: Effects of communication, risky environment and worldviews. Ecological Economics 156: 287-292. DOI:10.1016/j.ecolecon.2018.10.004. PDF
The ‘tragedy of the commons’ has been investigated for several decades. At its centre is the question whether a common resource will collapse under over-exploitation. The isolated analysis of one resource has many conceptual benefits, yet in reality resources and welfare are intertwined. In this paper, we investigate a situation where a resource which is exploited for profit has the additional feature of protecting against risk. Our main question is whether participants in an experimental game will prioritize such additional feature over maximizing profit and, if so, to what extent. Therefore, we designed a forest-harvesting game: Participants can harvest trees to generate income, and at the same time the forest serves as a protection against floods. Communication has been shown to play a vital role in managing commons. Our second aim is to test the importance of communication when the resource functions as a device of protecting against external risk. Lastly, we introduce a new perspective to the tragedy of the commons literature. Specifically, we investigate how the anthropologically motivated theory of risk perception (often called Cultural Theory) correlates with behaviour in our economic game. We believe that there is much potential in combining insights from these separate disciplines.
Keywords: Tragedy of the commons, social dilemma, cooperation, behavioural experiment, cultural theory