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Is it even worth it? The effect of loss prospects in the outcome distribution of a public goods dilemma

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  • McCarter, Matthew W.
  • Rockmann, Kevin W.
  • Northcraft, Gregory B.

Abstract

Contributions to public goods are premised on the expectation that the collective will realize benefit in excess of the value of required contributions. However, past research has focused on public goods of fixed and known value, for which the added value of the produced public good is obvious. Research has largely ignored public goods whose eventual value is uncertain at the time contribution decisions are made. Two studies explored the effects of outcome variance on individuals' contributions to a public good and their reasons for contributing. Contributions were negatively affected by loss prospects in the distribution of possible outcomes. Further, loss prospects directly discouraged contributions because of loss aversion, and indirectly discouraged contributions by fueling fears that others would not contribute. The negative effects of loss prospects were stronger when social uncertainty was low. Implications for social dilemma research and the effective management of collective action are discussed.

Suggested Citation

  • McCarter, Matthew W. & Rockmann, Kevin W. & Northcraft, Gregory B., 2010. "Is it even worth it? The effect of loss prospects in the outcome distribution of a public goods dilemma," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 111(1), pages 1-12, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jobhdp:v:111:y:2010:i:1:p:1-12
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Michael Caldara & Michael T. McBride & Matthew W. McCarter & Roman M. Sheremeta, 2017. "A Study of the Triggers of Conflict and Emotional Reactions," Games, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 8(2), pages 1-12, April.
    2. Matthew W. McCarter & Shirli Kopelman & Thomas A. Turk & Candace E. Ybarra, 2012. "Too Many Cooks Spoil the Broth: How the tragedy of the anticommons emerges in organizations," Working Papers 12-14, Chapman University, Economic Science Institute.
    3. Matthew W. McCarter & Anya C. Samak & Roman M. Sheremeta, 2013. "Divided Loyalties or Conditional Cooperation? An experimental study of contributions to multiple public goods," Working Papers 13-08, Chapman University, Economic Science Institute.
    4. Matthew W. McCarter & Anya C. Samak & Roman M. Sheremeta, 2014. "Divided Loyalists or Conditional Cooperators? Creating Consensus about Cooperation in Multiple Simultaneous Social Dilemmas," Working Papers 14-16, Chapman University, Economic Science Institute.
    5. Roman M. Sheremeta & Matthew W. McCarter, 2013. "You Can’t Put Old Wine in New Bottles: The Effect of Newcomers on Coordination in Groups," Working Papers 13-02, Chapman University, Economic Science Institute.
    6. Hota, Ashish R. & Garg, Siddharth & Sundaram, Shreyas, 2016. "Fragility of the commons under prospect-theoretic risk attitudes," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 98(C), pages 135-164.
    7. McCarter, Matthew W. & Budescu, David V. & Scheffran, Jürgen, 2011. "The give-or-take-some dilemma: An empirical investigation of a hybrid social dilemma," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 116(1), pages 83-95, September.

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