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Social Dilemmas, Revisited from a Heuristics Perspective

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  • Christoph Engel

    () (Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods, Bonn, Germany)

Abstract

The standard tool for analysing social dilemmas is game theory. They are reconstructed as prisoner dilemma games. This is helpful for understanding the incentive structure. Yet this analysis is based on the classic homo oeconomicus assumptions. In many real world dilemma situations, these assumptions are misleading. A case in point is the contribution of households to climate change. Decisions about using cars instead of public transport, or about extensive air conditioning, are typically not based on ad hoc calculation. Rather, individuals rely on situational heuristics for the purpose. This paper does two things: it offers a model of heuristics, in the interest of making behaviour that is guided by heuristics comparable to behaviour based on rational reasoning. Based on this model, the paper determines the implications for the definition of social dilemmas. In some contexts, the social dilemma vanishes. In other contexts, it must be understood, and hence solved, in substantially different ways.

Suggested Citation

  • Christoph Engel, 2004. "Social Dilemmas, Revisited from a Heuristics Perspective," Discussion Paper Series of the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods 2004_4, Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods.
  • Handle: RePEc:mpg:wpaper:2004_04
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    File URL: http://www.coll.mpg.de/pdf_dat/2004_04online.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Cornes,Richard & Sandler,Todd, 1996. "The Theory of Externalities, Public Goods, and Club Goods," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521477185, May.
    2. Simon Gachter & Ernst Fehr, 2000. "Cooperation and Punishment in Public Goods Experiments," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(4), pages 980-994, September.
    3. Lluís Bru & Xavier Vives, 2002. "Informational Externalities, Herding, and Incentives," Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics (JITE), Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 158(1), pages 1-91, March.
    4. Drew Fudenberg & Jean Tirole, 1991. "Game Theory," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262061414, January.
    5. Schlicht, Ekkehart, 1998. "On Custom in the Economy," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198292241.
    6. Simon, Herbert A, 1979. "Rational Decision Making in Business Organizations," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 69(4), pages 493-513, September.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Engel, Christoph & Weber, Elke U., 2007. "The impact of institutions on the decision how to decide," Journal of Institutional Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 3(03), pages 323-349, December.
    2. Christoph Engel, 2007. "Institutions for Intuitive Man," Discussion Paper Series of the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods 2007_12, Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Heuristic; Social Dilemma; Public Good; Prisoner’s Dilemma;

    JEL classification:

    • A12 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Relation of Economics to Other Disciplines
    • A13 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Relation of Economics to Social Values
    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • D62 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Externalities
    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods
    • K32 - Law and Economics - - Other Substantive Areas of Law - - - Energy, Environmental, Health, and Safety Law

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