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Evolution of cooperation in asymmetric commons dilemmas


  • Janssen, Marco A.
  • Rollins, Nathan D.


Field experiments with asymmetric commons dilemmas have shown that groups who are able to derive high social efficiency also had higher equity compared to groups who were not able to derive significant levels of social efficiency. These findings resemble the high productivity in long-lasting irrigation systems based on self-governance. We present an agent-based model based on cultural group selection that shows that the patterns observed in the field experiments can be evolved in cases where agents participate regularly in less challenging symmetric public good dilemmas. These results indicate that cooperation in asymmetric dilemmas can evolve and persist when the agents contend with other social dilemmas than the asymmetric dilemmas.

Suggested Citation

  • Janssen, Marco A. & Rollins, Nathan D., 2012. "Evolution of cooperation in asymmetric commons dilemmas," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 81(1), pages 220-229.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:81:y:2012:i:1:p:220-229
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jebo.2011.10.010

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Gary Charness & Matthew Rabin, 2002. "Understanding Social Preferences with Simple Tests," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(3), pages 817-869.
    2. Ernst Fehr & Klaus M. Schmidt, 1999. "A Theory of Fairness, Competition, and Cooperation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(3), pages 817-868.
    3. Fangfang Tan, 2008. "Punishment in a Linear Public Good Game with Productivity Heterogeneity," De Economist, Springer, vol. 156(3), pages 269-293, September.
    4. Elinor Ostrom & Roy Gardner, 1993. "Coping with Asymmetries in the Commons: Self-Governing Irrigation Systems Can Work," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 7(4), pages 93-112, Fall.
    5. T. Ahn & Myungsuk Lee & Lore Ruttan & James Walker, 2007. "Asymmetric payoffs in simultaneous and sequential prisoner’s dilemma games," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 132(3), pages 353-366, September.
    6. repec:cup:apsrev:v:87:y:1993:i:03:p:567-576_10 is not listed on IDEAS
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    Cited by:

    1. Wood, Aaron D. & Mason, Charles F. & Finnoff, David, 2016. "OPEC, the Seven Sisters, and oil market dominance: An evolutionary game theory and agent-based modeling approach," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 132(PB), pages 66-78.
    2. Kimmich, Christian & Sagebiel, Julian, 2016. "Empowering irrigation: A game-theoretic approach to electricity utilization in Indian agriculture," Utilities Policy, Elsevier, vol. 43(PB), pages 174-185.

    More about this item


    Common pool resources; Equity; Asymmetry; Field experiments; Agent-based; Modeling;

    JEL classification:

    • B52 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Current Heterodox Approaches - - - Historical; Institutional; Evolutionary
    • C73 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Stochastic and Dynamic Games; Evolutionary Games
    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • Q25 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation - - - Water
    • Q57 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Ecological Economics


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