Understanding human cooperation in social dilemmas


One of our main research interests at CICS is the study of human cooperative behavior in social dilemmas, such as the collective provision of public goods and the sustainable exploitation of natural resources. Cooperation is a puzzling phenomenon from the point of view of orthodox economics and evolutionary psychology, because cooperating confers benefits the group while decreasing the individual profits (and hence the fitness) of the cooperator.

In CICS we study human cooperation using the methods of behavioral game theory and experimental economics. Instead of using college students as experimental subjects, we take our lab to the field. Our subjects belong to artisanal fishing communities that face a real-life social dilemma: exploiting benthic fisheries along the central coast of Chile. These fishing communities provide an ideal scenario for the study of cooperation, because each community self-organizes to co-manage its fishery, and collectively enforces its self-imposed regulations. The performance of these communities is very heterogeneous, which allows the investigation of the determinants of cooperative behavior.

Some of our first findings can be found in this paper:

See paper here .

In this ongoing research project, the CICS team collaborates with Dr. Stefan Gelcich (Facultad de Ciencias Biológicas, Universidad Católica de Chile), who is an expert in socio-ecological systems and the sustainable management of marine resources.