Individual adaptations and structural change as solutions to social dilemmas

Individual adaptations and structural change as solutions to social dilemmas

By
David M. Messick, Henk Wilke, Marilynn B. Brewer, Roderick M. Kramer, Patricia English Zemke, Layton Lui
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. February
1983, Vol. 44, Issue 2, Pages 294-309

80 undergraduates, in groups of 6, took “harvests” from a regenerating resource pool so as to maximize their harvests while maintaining the pool. False feedback was provided regarding the other Ss’ harvest sizes. One-third of the Ss thought that the others were overusing the resource, one-third thought that the others were underusing it, and the remaining third were led to believe that the others were using the resource optimally. This “use” variable was crossed with a manipulation of the purported homogeneity of the others’ behavior: Half the Ss thought that the others took relatively similar harvests (low variance), whereas the other half thought the others’ harvests differed greatly (high variance). Results indicate that harvest size increased over time, especially in the underuse, high-variance condition. Ss in the overuse condition who expected that other group members would reciprocate self-restraint (high-trust Ss) decreased their harvest in comparison to low-trust Ss in this condition. As expected, more Ss in the overuse condition voted to give up free access to the resource in favor of a leader than did Ss in the other conditions. Data are also presented regarding the Ss’ behavior as the elected leader. (