We conducted a dynamic common pool resource experiment and found large differences among groups in the total benefits (surplus) obtained from the resource. To shed light on the factors underlying the differences, we characterized individual appropriation decisions as irresponsible, sustainable, or constructive, and defined a measure of the intensity of such actions. We then examined the relationships between group-level success and the frequency and intensity of the individual actions, finding that the average intensity of irresponsible actions was the best predictor of group success. We interpreted this as suggestive evidence that policies aimed at preserving and maximizing the benefits of renewable resources should above all else aim to reduce the intensity of irresponsible actions.
common pool resource social dilemma dynamic experiment