Shut Up and Fish: The Role of Communication when Output-Sharing is used to Manage a Common Pool Resource
Schott et al. (2007) have shown that the “tragedy of the commons” can be overcome when individuals share their output equally in groups of optimal size and there is no communication. The assignment of individuals to groups as either strangers or partners does not significantly affect this outcome. In this paper we investigate whether communication changes these results. Communication reduces shirking, increases aggregate effort and reduces aggregate rents, but only when communication groups and output-sharing groups are linked. The effect is stronger for fixed groups (the partners treatment) than for randomly reassigned groups (the strangers treatment). Performance is not distinguishable from the no- communication treatments when communication is permitted but subjects share output within groups different from the groups within which they communicate. Communication also tends to enhance the negative effect of the partnered group assignment on the equality of individual payoffs. We use detailed content analysis to evaluate the impact of various categories of communication messages on behaviour across treatments.
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