Structural Characteristics of Norms in Resource Dilemmas

"This research investigated the utility of Jackson's (1966) Return Potential Model (RPM) for assessing the structural characteristics of norms for choice behavior in a sequential resource dilemma. Two computer-controlled laboratory experiments were performed to test the conflict hypothesis (Thibaut & Kelley, 1959): normative power will increase as the degree of perceived conflict of interest between group members increases. The results of Study 1 demonstrated that subjects clearly perceived an equality norm in this resource sharing situation. In Study 2, three independent variables were manipulated in a 2 X 2 X 2 factorial design: (1) resource use (scarcity, abundance), (2) inequity in others' behavior (low, high), and (3) causal attribution for scarcity/abundance (group, environment). The results of Study 2 replicated the basic finding of Study 1 and showed further that the structure of the equality norm varied systematically as a function of both resource use and causal attribution. Consistent with the conflict hypothesis, normative power was higher under conditions of resource scarcity and high inequity. Contrary to expectations, under scarcity conditions, normative power was actually highest in the environment attribution rather than the group attribution condition. These findings suggest that the RPM approach has considerable promise as a reliable and useful method for obtaining quantitative measures of existing norms in small groups in laboratory settings."
norms, common pool resources, cooperation, psychology, social dilemmas, resource dilemmas