Social values and cooperative response to a simulated resource conservation crisis


  • This research was partially supported by National Science Foundation grant #BN572 to the second author and #BN583-02674 to the third The authors wish to thank C Peter Herman, Harry T Reis, Charles Samuelson, and two anonvmous reviewers for their helpful comments and insightful critique of an earlier version of this paper

Requests for reprints should be sent to Roderick M Kramer, Graduate School of Business, Stanford University, Stanford CA 94305


The present study examined the relationship between individuals social motives or values and their level of cooperation during a simulated resource conservation crisis Prior to the resource task, a decomposed game procedure was used to classify subjects as cooperatively or noncooperatively oriented Subjects, in groups of six, were led to believe that they shared access to a replenishing resource pool via a system of linked computer terminals Across a series of trials, subjects had to choose between maximizing their own short-term gain and exercising personal restraint to preserve the collective resource False feedback about the group's use of the resource and the rate at which it was replenished was varied to indicate either that the resource was being sustained or that collective overuse was rapidly depleting it As predicted, cooperatively oriented individuals responded to resource depletion with greater self-restraint than did those classified as noncooperators Analvsis of pretrial and posttrial data indicated that social values were also related to individuals expectations about the task and perceptions of others