Requests for reprints should be addressed to Paul Bell at the Department of Psychology, Colorado State University, Ft. Collins, CO 80523.
The Effect of Punishment Probability on Overconsumption and Stealing in a Simulated Commons1
Version of Record online: 31 JUL 2006
Journal of Applied Social Psychology
Volume 19, Issue 17, pages 1483–1495, December 1989
How to Cite
Bell, P. A., Petersen, T. R. and Hautaluoma, J. E. (1989), The Effect of Punishment Probability on Overconsumption and Stealing in a Simulated Commons. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 19: 1483–1495. doi: 10.1111/j.1559-1816.1989.tb01460.x
This research was completed as part of the second author's Master of Science degree requirements.
- Issue online: 31 JUL 2006
- Version of Record online: 31 JUL 2006
In laboratory simulations of the commons dilemma, overconsumption depletes the shared resource, whereas allowing the players to steal from each other helps preserve the resource since players take from each other rather than from the central supply. In this study, we factorially crossed three levels of punishment probability for overconsumption (0%, 25%, 75%) with three levels of probability of punishment for stealing (0%, 25%, 75%). Subjects (n= 270) in three-person groups harvested points from a slowly regenerating central pool. Results indicated that punishment of overconsumption decreased overconsumption, increased stealing, and helped preserve the commons, whereas punishment of stealing decreased stealing, increased overconsumption, and facilitated depletion of the commons. Rather than punishment of one selfish behavior suppressing the other selfish behavior, a compensatory effect occurred: Punishment of one behavior increased the occurrence of the selfish alternative.