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Communication and Co-operation in a Common-Pool Resource Dilemma: A Field Experiment

In: Advances in Understanding Strategic Behaviour


  • Juan-Camilo Cardenas
  • T. K. Ahn
  • Elinor Ostrom


One tenet of classical, rational choice theory as used in non-cooperative game theory is that all players use the same model of rationality for themselves as well as for all other players. The assumption of homogeneous, self-interested actors helps theorists to model how individuals would make choices. One justification for positing homogeneous, rational, egoistic actors has been evolutionary theory (Dawkins, 1976). That is, even if individuals tried out different ways of behaving, only those who made decisions consistent with rational egoistic decisions would maximize returns. In a highly competitive environment, those who maximize returns are more likely to survive in the long run. Long ago, Armen Alchian (1950) made a cogent theoretical argument that, in a highly competitive market, selection pressure would weed out those market participants who did not maximize profits. Extensive experimental studies of behaviour in competitive market settings have supported the use of the classical, rational choice model as the only model of individual choice needed in this setting to make empirically supported predictions (Smith, 1962; Plott, 1986). Thus, continuing to use the classical model when analysing competitive markets has both strong theoretical and empirical support.

Suggested Citation

  • Juan-Camilo Cardenas & T. K. Ahn & Elinor Ostrom, 2004. "Communication and Co-operation in a Common-Pool Resource Dilemma: A Field Experiment," Palgrave Macmillan Books, in: Steffen Huck (ed.), Advances in Understanding Strategic Behaviour, chapter 12, pages 258-286, Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Handle: RePEc:pal:palchp:978-0-230-52337-1_12
    DOI: 10.1057/9780230523371_12

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    Cited by:

    1. Matthew Osborne & Emma Sundström & Örjan Bodin, 2019. "Ecological interdependencies and resource competition: The role of information and communication in promoting effective collaboration in complex management situations," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 14(12), pages 1-22, December.
    2. Cardenas, Juan Camilo & Rodriguez, Luz Angela & Johnson, Nancy, 2011. "Collective action for watershed management: field experiments in Colombia and Kenya," Environment and Development Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 16(3), pages 275-303, June.
    3. Matthew L. Hamilton & Mark Lubell, 2019. "Climate change adaptation, social capital, and the performance of polycentric governance institutions," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 152(3), pages 307-326, March.
    4. Röttgers, Dirk, 2016. "Conditional cooperation, context and why strong rules work — A Namibian common-pool resource experiment," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 129(C), pages 21-31.
    5. Rodriguez, Luz A. & Velez, María Alejandra & Pfaff, Alexander, 2021. "Leaders’ distributional & efficiency effects in collective responses to policy: Lab-in-field experiments with small-scale gold miners in Colombia," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 147(C).
    6. Juan Cardenas, 2011. "Social Norms and Behavior in the Local Commons as Seen Through the Lens of Field Experiments," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 48(3), pages 451-485, March.
    7. Koessler, Ann-Kathrin & Ortiz-Riomalo, Juan Felipe & Janke, Mathias & Engel, Stefanie, 2020. "Structuring communication effectively for environmental cooperation," EconStor Preprints 213607, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics.
    8. Marco A. Janssen & Elinor Ostrom, 2008. "TURFS in the lab: Institutional Innovation in Real-Time Dynamic Spatial Commons," Rationality and Society, , vol. 20(4), pages 371-397, November.
    9. James Walker & Mark Isaac, 2015. "In Honor of Elinor “Lin” Ostrom: The Vincent and Elinor Ostrom Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, Department of Political Science, Indiana University," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 18(1), pages 1-3, March.
    10. Ann-Kathrin Koessler & Juan Felipe Ortiz-Riomalo & Mathias Janke & Stefanie Engel, 2021. "Structuring Communication Effectively—The Causal Effects of Communication Elements on Cooperation in Social Dilemmas," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 79(4), pages 683-712, August.
    11. Rudolf, Katrin & Edison, Edi & Wollni, Meike, 2022. "Achieving landscape patterns for biodiversity conservation through payments for ecosystem services – Evidence from a field experiment in Indonesia," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 193(C).
    12. Ortiz-Riomalo, Juan Felipe & Koessler, Ann-Kathrin & Engel, Stefanie, 2022. "Fostering co-operation through participation in natural resource management. An integrative review," EconStor Preprints 253261, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics.
    13. Ganga Shreedhar, Alessandro Tavoni, Carmen Marchiori, 2018. "Monitoring and punishment networks in a common-pool resource dilemma: experimental evidence," GRI Working Papers 292, Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment.
    14. 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.
    15. Michael J Weir & Catherine M Ashcraft & Natallia Leuchanka Diessner & Bridie McGreavy & Emily Vogler & Todd Guilfoos, 2020. "Language effects on bargaining," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 15(3), pages 1-20, March.
    16. Bednarik, Peter & Linnerooth-Bayer, Joanne & Magnuszewski, Piotr & Dieckmann, Ulf, 2019. "A Game of Common-pool Resource Management: Effects of Communication, Risky Environment and Worldviews," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 156(C), pages 287-292.


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