Journal of Applied Social Psychology

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Volume 21 Issue 16 (August 1991), Pages 1293-1378

Reward, Punishment, Privatization, and Moral Suasion in a Commons Dilemma (pages 1356-1369)

Strategies such as privatization, counterreinforcers, and moral suasion have been suggested and tested as means of preserving shared, slowly regenerating resources such as whales, clean air, and forests. We hypothesized that reinforcers would preserve a shared simulated resource best when it was shared in a commons dilemma format, and would be relatively ineffective when the resource was divided into private territories. Subjects in groups of three played a game in which they had to harvest resources from a slowly regenerating pool without depleting the resource. Three levels of reinforcement (reward, punishment, or no reinforcement) were crossed with three game structures (territoriality. Golden Rule moral suasion, and basic structure). Results showed that neither reward nor punishment helped the management of the commons when the resource was broken down into private segments, but both reward and punishment helped in the Golden Rule and basic structure conditions. Subjects perceived the territorial condition to be more competitive and more under their control compared to the moral suasion or basic structure conditions. In the moral suasion condition. subjects enjoyed either reinforcement condition (reward or punishment) more than no reinforcement.

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