Center for Behavior, Institutions and the Environment / CBIE Working Papers / The E ffect of Information in a Behavioral Irrigation Experiment

The E ffect of Information in a Behavioral Irrigation Experiment

CBIE_WP-2015-001

Abstract

When governing shared resources, the level and quality of information available to resource users on the actions of others and the state of the environment may have a critical effect on the performance of groups. In the work presented here, we find that lower availability of information does not affect the average performance of the group in terms of their capacity to provide public infrastructure and govern resource use, but it affects the distribution of earnings and the ability to cope with disturbances. We performed behavioral experiments that mimic irrigation dilemmas in which
participants need to maintain infrastructure function in order to generate revenue from the use of water. In the experimental design, there is an upstream-downstream asymmetry of access to water that may lead to unequal access to water. We find that inequality of investment in irrigation infrastructure and water appropriation across players is more pronounced in experiments where resource users have limited information about the actions of others. We also find that inequality is linked to the ability of groups to cope with disturbances. Hence a reduced level of information indirectly reduces the adaptive capacity of groups.

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Published January 1, 2015

Marco A. Janssen, Arizona State University, School of Sustainability

John M. Anderies, Arizona State University, School of Sustainability/School of Human Evolution and Social Change

Irene Perez Ibarra, Arizona State University, Center for Behavior, Institutions and the Environment

David J. Yu, Purdue University