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Thu Jul 25, 2013, 08:20 PM

A new psych study addresses the "tragedy of the ommons"

Social science in the public interest--


Cooperation, Trust, and Antagonism: How Public Goods Are Promoted
Craig D. Parks, Jeff Joireman, and Paul A. M. Van Lange

Every society has public goods and common-pool resources that can be used by all of its citizens. These include public services, such as national radio or charitable organizations, and natural resources, such as water or fossil fuels. These goods and resources require that citizens contribute to their creation, acquisition, maintenance, and/or distribution.

Because all citizens benefit regardless of the level of their contribution, it can be difficult to convince people to participate in the provision and maintenance of collective goods. In this report, Craig D. Parks (Washington State University, Pullman), Jeff Joireman (Washington State University, Pullman), and Paul A. M. Van Lange (Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam) review a wide range of psychological research examining cooperative and antagonistic behaviors that encourage or discourage the support of public goods.

The authors create an integrative model that identifies factors that influence how people make decisions in social dilemmas -- situations in which the interests of individuals may be at odds with the interests of the larger group. The authors also examine the reasons behind antagonistic behavior that serves to block support for public goods.

They conclude by providing real-world advice for helping remediate public-goods conflicts. Gaining a better understanding of the processes that lead to cooperative behavior and the antagonistic barriers that prevent such behavior can lead to increased citizen contributions to public goods and to better and broader access to these types of societal benefits.

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