Contagious cooperation, temptation, and ecosystem collapse

A. Richter, D.P. van Soest, J. Grasman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

Abstract

Real world observations suggest that social norms of cooperation can be effective in overcoming social dilemmas such as the joint management of a common pool resource—but also that they can be subject to slow erosion and sudden collapse. We show that these patterns of erosion and collapse emerge endogenously in a model of a closed community harvesting a renewable natural resource in which individual agents face the temptation to overexploit the resource, while a cooperative harvesting norm spreads through the community via interpersonal relations. We analyze under what circumstances small changes in key parameters (including the size of the community, and the rate of technological progress) trigger catastrophic transitions from relatively high levels of cooperation to widespread norm violation—causing the social–ecological system to collapse.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)141-158
JournalJournal of Environmental Economics and Management
Volume66
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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ecosystem
erosion
renewable resource
natural resource
resource
norm
co-operation
Temptation
Ecosystem
Erosion
rate
parameter
Social norms
Technological progress
Resources
Social-ecological systems
Common pool
Natural resources
Social dilemma
Trigger

Cite this

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Contagious cooperation, temptation, and ecosystem collapse. / Richter, A.; van Soest, D.P.; Grasman, J.

In: Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Vol. 66, No. 1, 2013, p. 141-158.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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AB - Real world observations suggest that social norms of cooperation can be effective in overcoming social dilemmas such as the joint management of a common pool resource—but also that they can be subject to slow erosion and sudden collapse. We show that these patterns of erosion and collapse emerge endogenously in a model of a closed community harvesting a renewable natural resource in which individual agents face the temptation to overexploit the resource, while a cooperative harvesting norm spreads through the community via interpersonal relations. We analyze under what circumstances small changes in key parameters (including the size of the community, and the rate of technological progress) trigger catastrophic transitions from relatively high levels of cooperation to widespread norm violation—causing the social–ecological system to collapse.

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JF - Journal of Environmental Economics and Management

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