Also related to the study of coalitions and power distribution is research on voting institutions. Walker et al. (2000) found that voting substantially increases the efficiency of the outcomes in commons dilemma games. Voting can act as a communication signal when no communication is possible. “The very act of making a proposal and voting on a set of proposals signals limited information to all involved. In particular, it appears to generate information that enables a learning process to occur” (p. 231). This learning extends to subsequent situations and enables people to coordinate their activities even in rounds where no proposals are made.

In 1991, the California water shortage offered Tyler and Degoey (1995) a natural commons dilemma to study. With complete survey data from 400 people directly affected by the shortage, they were able to pose a number of interesting questions about authorities and leadership in relation to the management of a common resource dilemma. Their results replicated earlier experimental findings that people confronted with a severe resource shortage willingly endow authorities with additional control over the resource (e.g., Messick et al., 1983). They also found that the legitimacy of such authorities was determined in large part by the authorities’ commitment to fair allocation and decision-making procedures (procedural justice). Perhaps most interesting was their finding that respondents’ social identifications with their community moderated the relationship between authorities’ use of fair procedures and the support of the authorities. Those who felt pride in their community and perceived procedures to be fair expressed particularly strong support for the regulating authorities. In fact, people who took pride in their community cared even less about their personal outcomes. Taken as a whole, Tyler and Degoey (1995:482) suggest that authorities’ effectiveness is “primarily linked to the nature of their social bonds with community members.” Social identification with community is an important variable that should not be overlooked in future studies of resource dilemmas.

A number of recent findings speak to contingency issues related to leadership and administration in social dilemma settings. Wit and Wilke (1990), for example, examined the role of who presented rewards and punishments in a social dilemma, and to whom they were presented. The experimental procedures placed participants in the role of chemical company managers concerned with making waste storage versus waste treatment decisions. The former choice was in participants’ short-term financial interests, while the latter choice was better for the community and promised greater long-term value. For 124 undergraduates they found no difference between the effectiveness of rewards or punishments on their choices, regardless of whether they were presented by the government or by their parent companies. In contrast, for 239 managers, rewards supplied by the parent company were highly effective, while those supplied by government were actually counterproductive. This finding suggests an interesting consideration for those attempting to manage dilemmas in the real world: What source of sanction-



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement