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The Role of Information in Governing the Commons: Experimental Results

Marco A. Janssen, Arizona State University, USA

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-05664-180404

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Abstract

The structure and dynamics of ecosystems can affect the information available to resource users on the state of the common resource and the actions of other resource users. We present results from laboratory experiments that showed that the availability of information about the actions of other participants affected the level of cooperation. Since most participants in commons dilemmas can be classified as conditional cooperators, not having full information about the actions of others may affect their decisions. When participants had more information about others, there was a more rapid reduction of the resource in the first round of the experiment. When communication was allowed, limiting the information available made it harder to develop effective institutional arrangements. When communication was not allowed, there was a more rapid decline of performance in groups where information was limited. In sum, the results suggest that making information available to others can have an important impact on the conditional cooperation and the effectiveness of communication.

Key words

common pool resource; communication; conditional cooperation; information; institutions
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087