Social Dilemmas: Perspectives on Individuals and Groups

Social Dilemmas: Perspectives on Individuals and Groups

Social Dilemmas: Perspectives on Individuals and Groups

Social Dilemmas: Perspectives on Individuals and Groups

Synopsis

Efficient resource management and provision of public goods represent social dilemmas for those involved. They must choose between a course of action that would be in their personal best interest (e.g., overharvesting fishing banks to take a bigger profit; withholding one's contributions to National Public Radio) and some alternative course that would be more advantageous for the community as a whole (e.g., limiting one's present catch to ensure future fishing stocks; contributing to NPR, even though contributors and noncontributors alike would be able to enjoy its programming). The decisions made by those facing social dilemmas are affected by many factors, and the contributors to this book have explored the diverse processes that ultimately lead an individual to choose between self-interest and the well-being of the community. By gaining a better appreciation of the variables that affect decisions made by those caught in social dilemmas, more effective ways to encourage greater cooperation and to promote the common good may be found.

Excerpt

The study of social dilemmas has been of interest to researchers from diverse disciplines for many years. The terminology used may not always be the same, but the underlying theme remains constant--in many circumstances people must choose between a course of action that would maximize their own payoffs and an alternative course that would be in the best interest of their group or community. The specific situation may involve a group of subjects playing an experimental game in a psychologist's laboratory or the citizens of a community voting for or against an increase in the school millage rate. On a more global scale, the "dilemma" may concern such worldwide issues as the "greenhouse effect" and global warming, the consequences of unrestricted population growth, preservation of the rain forest, or the economic impact of world markets. Once one understands the basics of social dilemmas, it becomes all too clear that such dilemmas are ubiquitous and can be found at virtually every level of social interaction. But the conflict of individual versus group interests does provide social scientists with fertile ground for their research.

This book is intended to provide some new insights into the many facets of social dilemmas that have caught researchers' interests in recent years. The contributors have taken decidedly different perspectives in their examination of social dilemmas and in their attempts to understand more clearly how those caught in the dilemma resolve the inherent conflict. In fact, the contributors were asked to participate because they had taken different points of view in their previous work, in the hope that some sort of synthesis would emerge when the individual chapters were brought together. The final chapter of the book represents an attempt to provide such a synthesis.

There have been several recent books that have also addressed the issue of social dilemmas. Komorita and Parks Social Dilemmas (1994) provides an . . .

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