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A game-theoretic taxonomy of social dilemmas


  • Martin Beckenkamp



Both social psychology and experimental economics empirically investigate social dilemmas. However, these two disciplines sometimes use different notions for very similar scenarios. While it is irrelevant for economists whether an experimental public-good game is conceptualised as a take-some or give-some game – i.e., whether something is conceptualised as produced or extracted – it is not irrelevant for some psychologists: they grasp public-goods games as “give-some” games. And whereas most economists define social dilemmas in reference to a taxonomy of goods, some psychologists think that dominant strategies are a necessary attribute. This paper presents a taxonomy that relies on a formal game-theoretic analysis of social dilemmas, which integrates and clarifies both approaches. Because this taxonomy focuses on the underlying incentive structure, it facilitates the evaluation of experimental results from both social psychology and experimental economics. Copyright Physica-Verlag 2006

Suggested Citation

  • Martin Beckenkamp, 2006. "A game-theoretic taxonomy of social dilemmas," Central European Journal of Operations Research, Springer;Slovak Society for Operations Research;Hungarian Operational Research Society;Czech Society for Operations Research;Österr. Gesellschaft für Operations Research (ÖGOR);Slovenian Society Informatika - Section for Operational Research;Croatian Operational Research Society, vol. 14(3), pages 337-353, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:cejnor:v:14:y:2006:i:3:p:337-353 DOI: 10.1007/s10100-006-0008-5

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Kenneth S. Chan & Stuart Mestelman & Rob Moir & R. Andrew Muller Moir, 1996. "The Voluntary Provision of Public Goods under Varying Income Distributions," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 29(1), pages 54-69, February.
    2. Gardner, Roy & Michael R. Moore & James M. Walker, 1994. "Racing for the Water: Laboratory Evidence on Subgame Perfection," Discussion Paper Serie B 278, University of Bonn, Germany.
    3. Chan, Kenneth S. & Mestelman, Stuart & Muller, R. Andrew, 2008. "Voluntary Provision of Public Goods," Handbook of Experimental Economics Results, Elsevier.
    4. Laury, Susan K & Walker, James M & Williams, Arlington W, 1999. "The Voluntary Provision of a Pure Public Good with Diminishing Marginal Returns," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 99(1-2), pages 139-160, April.
    5. Sefton, Martin & Steinberg, Richard, 1996. "Reward structures in public good experiments," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 61(2), pages 263-287, August.
    6. R. Isaac & James Walker, 1998. "Nash as an Organizing Principle in the Voluntary Provision of Public Goods: Experimental Evidence," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 1(3), pages 191-206, December.
    7. Casari, Marco & Plott, Charles, 2000. "Keeping an eye on your neighbors: Agents monitoring and sanctioning one another in a common-pool resource environment," Working Papers 1072, California Institute of Technology, Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences.
    8. Frank P. Maier-Rigaud & Jose Apesteguia, 2004. "The Role of Rivalry. Public Goods versus Common-Pool Resources," Discussion Paper Series of the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods 2004_2, Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods.
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    Cited by:

    1. Robin Cubitt & Michalis Drouvelis & Simon Gächter, 2011. "Framing and free riding: emotional responses and punishment in social dilemma games," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 14(2), pages 254-272, May.
    2. Kölle, Felix & Gächter, Simon & Quercia, Simone, 2014. "The ABC of Cooperation in Voluntary Contribution and Common Pool Extraction Games," Annual Conference 2014 (Hamburg): Evidence-based Economic Policy 100417, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    3. Philipp Poppitz, 2011. "The Collective Risk of Inequality: a Social Dilemma calling for a Solution?," Macroeconomics and Finance Series 201106, Hamburg University, Department Wirtschaft und Politik.


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