ERIC Number: ED240434
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1983-Aug
Reference Count: 0
Commons Dilemma Choices in Small vs. Large Groups.
Powers, Richard B.; Boyle, William
The purpose of the Commons Game is to teach students how social traps work; that is, that short-term individual gain tends to dominate long-term collective gain. Simulations of Commons Dilemma have grown considerably in the last decade; however, the research has used small face-to-face groups to study behavior in the Commons. To compare the choices individuals make in large, indeterminant sized groups with those made in small face-to-face groups, 105 college students initially played a 1-trial dilemma game. Subsequently, groups of seven students either played a 75-trial Commons Game or discussed their options for 10 minutes (to cooperate, to exploit, or to withdraw). Both groups then played the 1-trial game again, once in a large anonymous group and once in their small face-to-face group. Half the players in each condition could fine others for exploitation. An analysis of the results showed that players chose differently in a Commons Dilemma depending upon the size of the referent group in which the choices were made. Players chose the withdrawal option at a high level in the large group but rarely in the small group, suggesting that cooperation, greed, and the desire not to be a sucker operate in the large group, but only the first two operate in the small group. The possibility of being fined for defection did not deter exploitation nor increase cooperation prior to playing the game. After the game or small group discussion, the possibility of being fined did make a difference, suggesting that to be effective fines must be experienced or talked about with others. Finally, subjects who played the game made fewer cooperative choices and more withdrawal responses in the large referent group than those who did not play the game. (BL)
Publication Type: Reports - Research; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers: Commons Dilemma Choices; Group Size
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association (91st, Anaheim, CA, August 26-30, 1983).