How We Can Promote Behavior That Serves All of Us in the Future


  • This research was supported by a grant to Paul Van Lange from the Netherlands Organization of Scientific Research (NWO; Grant No. R-57-178).

*Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Paul A. M. Van Lange, Department of Social Psychology, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, Van der Boechorststraat 1, 1081 BT Amsterdam, the Netherlands [e-mail:].


The health and vitality of relationships, groups, and society at large is strongly challenged by social dilemmas or conflicts between short-term self-interest and long-term collective interest. Pollution, depletion of natural resources, and intergroup conflict can be characterized as examples of urgent social dilemmas. This article advances a conceptual framework in which we analyze social dilemmas in terms of social and temporal concerns relevant to the social (individual vs. collective) and temporal (short-term vs. long-term) conflicts underlying social dilemmas. We discuss the plasticity of social orientations (altruism, cooperation, egalitarianism, individualism, competition, aggression) and temporal orientations (short-term orientation, future orientation), and illustrate their “logical effects” and “paradoxical effects” on behavior that supports collectively desired outcomes. This analysis enables us to suggest a set of novel recommendations for policy and intervention to help solve various social dilemmas in contemporary society.