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A common-pool resource experiment with postgraduate subjects from 41 countries


  • Ahn, T.K.
  • Ostrom, Elinor
  • Walker, James


This study reports results from a new series of experiments that examine the robustness of face-to-face communication as a cooperation-facilitating institution in common-pool resource settings. Results are reported from nine experiment sessions, initially designed for pedagogical purposes. The sessions were conducted between 1998 and 2007 as part of a series of summer institutes on institutional analysis and environmental change. Subjects were graduate students and professionals from diverse disciplines, representing 41 countries of residence. The participants in this study stand in sharp contrast to most previous studies, which used undergraduates who self-select into experiments by volunteering to participate. Results from these experiments substantiate earlier findings that non-binding communication can serve as an effective mechanism for solving social dilemma problems, with subjects achieving near socially efficient outcomes.

Suggested Citation

  • Ahn, T.K. & Ostrom, Elinor & Walker, James, 2010. "A common-pool resource experiment with postgraduate subjects from 41 countries," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(12), pages 2624-2633, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:69:y:2010:i:12:p:2624-2633

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Walker, James M, et al, 2000. "Collective Choice in the Commons: Experimental Results on Proposed Allocation Rules and Votes," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 110(460), pages 212-234, January.
    2. Juan-Camilo Cardenas, 2000. "How Do Groups Solve Local Commons Dilemmas? Lessons from Experimental Economics in the Field," Environment, Development and Sustainability: A Multidisciplinary Approach to the Theory and Practice of Sustainable Development, Springer, vol. 2(3), pages 305-322, September.
    3. Cardenas, Juan Camilo & Stranlund, John & Willis, Cleve, 2000. "Local Environmental Control and Institutional Crowding-Out," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 28(10), pages 1719-1733, October.
    4. Jeannette Brosig & Joachim Weimann & Axel Ockenfels, 2003. "The Effect of Communication Media on Cooperation," German Economic Review, Verein für Socialpolitik, vol. 4(2), pages 217-241, May.
    5. Bochet, Olivier & Page, Talbot & Putterman, Louis, 2006. "Communication and punishment in voluntary contribution experiments," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 60(1), pages 11-26, May.
    6. Cardenas, Juan-Camilo & Ostrom, Elinor, 2004. "What do people bring into the game? Experiments in the field about cooperation in the commons," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 82(3), pages 307-326, December.
    7. Steven D. Levitt & John A. List, 2007. "Viewpoint: On the generalizability of lab behaviour to the field," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 40(2), pages 347-370, May.
    8. Potters, Jan & van Winden, Frans, 2000. "Professionals and students in a lobbying experiment: Professional rules of conduct and subject surrogacy," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 43(4), pages 499-522, December.
    9. Frohlich, Norman & Oppenheimer, Joe, 1998. "Some consequences of e-mail vs. face-to-face communication in experiment," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 35(3), pages 389-403, April.
    10. Herr, Andrew & Gardner, Roy & Walker, James M., 1997. "An Experimental Study of Time-Independent and Time-Dependent Externalities in the Commons," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 19(1), pages 77-96, April.
    11. Cooper David J, 2006. "Are Experienced Managers Experts at Overcoming Coordination Failure?," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 5(2), pages 1-52, May.
    12. repec:cup:apsrev:v:86:y:1992:i:02:p:404-417_08 is not listed on IDEAS
    13. Isaac, R Mark & Walker, James M, 1988. "Communication and Free-Riding Behavior: The Voluntary Contribution Mechanism," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 26(4), pages 585-608, October.
    14. Steven Levitt & John List, 2008. "Homo economicus evolves," Artefactual Field Experiments 00095, The Field Experiments Website.
    15. Steven D. Levitt & John A. List, 2007. "What Do Laboratory Experiments Measuring Social Preferences Reveal About the Real World?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(2), pages 153-174, Spring.
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    Cited by:

    1. Neil J. Buckley & Stuart Mestelman & R. Andrew Muller & Stephan Schott & Jingjing Zhang, 2013. "Communication and Output Sharing in Common Pool Resource Environments," Department of Economics Working Papers 2013-06, McMaster University.
    2. Anderies, John M. & Janssen, Marco A. & Lee, Allen & Wasserman, Hannah, 2013. "Environmental variability and collective action: Experimental insights from an irrigation game," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(C), pages 166-176.
    3. Reeson, Andrew F. & Tisdell, John G. & McAllister, Ryan R.J., 2011. "Trust, reputation and relationships in grazing rights markets: An experimental economic study," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(4), pages 651-658, February.
    4. Siegwart Lindenberg, 2014. "Sustainable cooperation needs tinkering with both rules and social motivation," Journal of Bioeconomics, Springer, vol. 16(1), pages 71-81, April.
    5. Neil Buckley & Stuart Mestelman & R. Andrew Muller & Stephen Schott & Jingjing Zhang, 2017. "Do the Number of Appropriators from the Commons Matter in Controlled Laboratory Environments?," Department of Economics Working Papers 2017-09, McMaster University.


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