Management of Common Pool Resources in a Nation-Wide Experiment

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Abstract: Dilemmas related to the use of environmental resources concern very diverse populations at national or even international scales. Frequently, individuals are unable to visualize the consequences of their actions or the history of such behaviors, and their clear rank in the line of succeeding decision makers. However, most behavioral studies are conducted in (small) laboratory environments with homogeneous populations, where individuals are given specific roles, and a defined specific sequential order, as well as a clear time horizon. We present results from a nationwide common pool resource experiment, conducted simultaneously in eleven French cities, involving a total of 2724 participants. We design a new extraction game intended to better mimic real-world decisions: individuals do not know their rank and their generation in the decision-making line, and have no information about past choices or the time horizon. This feature allows capturing in a one-shot game a dynamic decision. We show that players significantly reduce extraction levels in local as compared to national level dilemmas and that providing recommendations on sustainable extraction amounts significantly improves the sustainability of the resource. We also examine how individual characteristics influence resource extraction. We find that women extract significantly less and older participants extract significantly more resources; however, while older individuals extract less from the national resource, women care more about preserving the local resource. Our experiment also fulfills a pedagogical and transmission aim, which we discuss.

Keywords: Common pool resource, Experiment, large sample, science popularization