Extrinsic Value Orientation and “The Tragedy of the Commons”

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Abstract

Two studies examined the effect of Extrinsic Value Orientation (Kasser & Ryan, 1993, 1996) upon harvesting strategies and personal profit within commons dilemmas, in which individual and group interests can be at odds. At an individual or within-group level of analysis, extrinsically oriented persons (who value money, fame, and popularity) harvested more than intrinsically oriented persons (who value self-acceptance, intimacy, and community). However, a counteracting group-level effect was found such that groups with a greater number of extrinsic members harvested less on average than did groups with more intrinsic members, because their commons did not last as long. As a result, even excessive harvesters within extrinsic groups did no better than did self-restrained harvesters within intrinsic groups. Supplementary analyses indicate that extrinsic values are associated with acquisitiveness regarding resources, more so than apprehension regarding others' acquisitiveness.

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