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Individual solutions to shared problems create a modern tragedy of the commons


Gross, Jörg; De Dreu, Carsten K W (2019). Individual solutions to shared problems create a modern tragedy of the commons. Science Advances, 5(4):eaau7296.

Abstract

Alone and together, climatic changes, population growth, and economic scarcity create shared problems that can be tackled effectively through cooperation and coordination. Perhaps because cooperation is fragile and easily breaks down, societies also provide individual solutions to shared problems, such as privatized healthcare or retirement planning. But how does the availability of individual solutions affect free-riding and the efficient creation of public goods? We confronted groups of individuals with a shared problem that could be solved either individually or collectively. Across different cost-benefit ratios of individually versus collectively solving the shared problem, individuals display a remarkable tendency toward group-independent, individual solutions. This "individualism" leads to inefficient resource allocations and coordination failure. Introducing peer punishment further results in wasteful punishment feuds between "individualists" and "collectivists." In the presence of individual solutions to shared problems, groups struggle to balance self-reliance and collective efficiency, leading to a "modern tragedy of the commons."

Abstract

Alone and together, climatic changes, population growth, and economic scarcity create shared problems that can be tackled effectively through cooperation and coordination. Perhaps because cooperation is fragile and easily breaks down, societies also provide individual solutions to shared problems, such as privatized healthcare or retirement planning. But how does the availability of individual solutions affect free-riding and the efficient creation of public goods? We confronted groups of individuals with a shared problem that could be solved either individually or collectively. Across different cost-benefit ratios of individually versus collectively solving the shared problem, individuals display a remarkable tendency toward group-independent, individual solutions. This "individualism" leads to inefficient resource allocations and coordination failure. Introducing peer punishment further results in wasteful punishment feuds between "individualists" and "collectivists." In the presence of individual solutions to shared problems, groups struggle to balance self-reliance and collective efficiency, leading to a "modern tragedy of the commons."

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Psychology
Dewey Decimal Classification:150 Psychology
Scopus Subject Areas:Health Sciences > Multidisciplinary
Language:English
Date:2019
Deposited On:15 Nov 2022 15:34
Last Modified:28 Mar 2024 02:39
Publisher:American Association for the Advancement of Science
ISSN:2375-2548
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:PubMed ID. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.aau7296
PubMed ID:31001579
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0)