Center for Behavior, Institutions and the Environment / CBIE Working Papers / The Role of Information in Governing the Commons: Experimental Results

The Role of Information in Governing the Commons: Experimental Results



The performance of institutional arrangements is expected to depend on the fit between institutions and ecological dynamics. The ecological dynamics affect the ability of resource users to observe the behavior of others as well as the state of the ecological systems. If ecological dynamics increase the costs of monitoring, we can expect institutional arrangements to be crafted that reduce the costs of monitoring. In case studies we see examples of how ecological dynamics affect rules for appropriation. 

We present experimental results that show that information availability affects cooperation. If it is not known that others are harvesting rapidly, we see a delay in overharvesting of the common resource. Even if communication is allowed, reduced information availability makes it harder to develop effective institutional arrangements. In the discussion of the results we suggest that the fit between institutions and ecological dynamics are a consequence of the interplay between information, conditional cooperation and trust.

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Published April 30, 2012

Marco Janssen, Arizona State University, School of Sustainability