Bard College Berlin Presents
Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Conforming with Norms of Cooperation

Bard College Berlin Seminar Room 8, Platanenstr. 24, Berlin - Pankow

Guest talk by Florian Diekert (Heidelberg University)

Overcoming the tragedy of the commons remains a key challenge for the sustainable management of natural resources. Particularly in settings where state capacity is weak, resource users have to rely on voluntary cooperation. In these situations, policy interventions often aim at changing behavior by affecting social norms. We shed light on how norms of cooperation can be affected by conducting a lab-in-the-field experiment with resource users that participate in the open-access fisheries at the shores of Lake Victoria, Tanzania (N=588). We use a social information manipulation that either emphasizes cooperation, or defection in a three person prisoner's dilemma game. We cross this treatment variation in a 2x2 factorial design with the opportunity to weakly sanction behavior of others (or not). We find that without sanctioning, the social information manipulation does not translate into differences in behavior. Irrespective of whether cooperation or defection was emphasized, cooperation rates decline over the course of the experiment. With sanctioning however, the social information manipulation leads to strongly significant differences in behavior. When defection is emphasized, cooperation rates start low and stay low. In contrast, when cooperation is emphasized, cooperation rates start high and stay high (at a level of around 60%). Using the data on elicited normative beliefs and empirical expectations, we argue that this pattern of behavior is linked to the emergence of different norms of cooperation. We show that the sanctioning mechanism is essential for creating resonance which leads to a pattern of self-fulfilling prophecies where participants conform with the initial manipulation of empirical expectations. Our study thus highlights the importance of local feedback mechanisms when policy makers aim to leverage social norms to support cooperative behavior.

The talk takes place in connection to the course Environmental and Resource Economics taught by Israel Waichman

Date & time: Tuesday, April 23, 2019, from 2:00pm
Venue: Bard College Berlin Seminar Room 8
Platanenstr. 24, Berlin - Pankow 
Admission free

Contact information:  communications@berlin.bard.edu

Location: Bard College Berlin Seminar Room 8, Platanenstr. 24, Berlin - Pankow

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