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Communication trumps penalties in new study of social-ecological systems
Date:4/29/2010

of the group, and when to sanction a player.

"Spatial and temporal resource dynamics were included in our laboratory experiments in order to capture these two critical variables," adds Janssen. He explains that adding the space and time complexity component to their experiments illustrated that stronger governance of common-pool resources does not always result in better harvesting.

This finding is contrary to the classic view of options regarding how to manage common resources, such as those based on Garrett Hardin's famed example of the "tragedy of the commons" the basis for much of the world's policies for managing resources.

When participants make decisions without communicating, they overharvest, notes co-author Ostrom, founding director of ASU's Center for the Study of Institutional Diversity and a professor of political science in Indiana University's College of Arts and Sciences.

When given a chance to communicate, however, participants improve their joint outcomes greatly and the effect is lasting even when communication is no longer possible, she says, adding, that being able to use costly fines against each other did not improve harvest output.

"This study presents results from a more complex experimental setting than previous laboratory experiments on public goods or common-pool resources. Since we conduct field research as well as experimental research we wanted to develop a more realistic setting than has been feasible in the past to assess how individuals cope with both the complexity and the temptations to overuse," says Ostrom, recipient of the 2009 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences.

Other co-authors of the study "Lab Experiments for the Study of Social-Ecological Systems" are Allen Lee, a research at ASU, and IU doctoral student Robert Holahan.

According to Lee, more than 400 students at both universities participated in the experiments.

"With the ability to co
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Contact: Carol Hughes
carol.hughes@asu.edu
480-965-6375
Arizona State University
Source:Eurekalert  

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