International Society of Political Psychology

Conference Abstracts

Not all social dilemmas are created equal: Positive vs Negative Public Goods

Eser Sekercioglu, Sabanci University

Conference: ISPP 2011
Affiliation: Sabanci University
Research Area: Social inequality and social change

Not all social dilemmas invoke the same reactions from individuals. Most laboratory experiments on how humans manage collective action problems design non-zero sum games in which the decision maker is presented with a choice over her own inteest versus the interest of the group. In most cases no matter how unsuccessful a strategy (selfish or extremely naive) is used by the subject, the subject is at most no worse off than before the task. Public good provision is almost always an addition to the pie.  However, many collective action problems both primitive ancestral socities faced in the past and advanced contemporary societies face today are relief efforts such as in the aftermath of an earthquake, tornado, or in a war zone. Cooperating to make bigger the pie and cooperating to restore a status quo or even to have a chance to long term survival puts different kinds of psyhcological challenges. Using a couple of experiments simulating disaster relief this paper shows that cooperative sentiments are tightly connected to risk perception and prospect theoretic dynamics. More specifically when the collective action is needed for restoring a status quo (disaster relief) participants behave more cautiously becasue they perceive themeselves in the realm of losses. On the other hand when the collective action is presented as a chance to improve on the status quo (e.g hunting large game) risk seeking behavior leads to higher levels of contribution. The change in behavior from one type of public good to other is found to be related to risk sensitivity of the subjects