Social Decision Heuristics, Role Schemas, and the Consumption of Shared Resources

"A series of experiments were performed to investigate the use of social decision heuristics in a multi-person sequential resource sharing task. Past research has suggested that members of small groups sharing a common resource may employ simplified decision rules such as 'share equally' to allocate the available resource. Studies 1 and 2 were designed to test the generality of this conclusion and explore its sensitivity to various methodological changes in the experimental situation. The results provided strong support for the prominence of the 'share equally' heuristic with approximately 70-75% of the subjects requesting equal shares of the common resource. Study 3 examined some conditions under which an equal division heuristic might be violated. Specifically, we investigated the extent to which arbitrary role assignments within the group may influence subjects' choice behavior. The results of Study 3 indicated that subjects assigned the role of 'supervisor' tended to violate the equality rule and take significantly more from the common pool than did subjects assigned the roles of either 'leader' or 'guide.' This role schema effect suggests that future research on decision making in resource dilemmas may need to explore the content of group members' implicit knowledge structures about resource sharing situations and their implications for choice."
cognition, common pool resources, cooperation, norms, social dilemmas, equality, psychology