Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Jonathan Haidt, Commons Game

I just watched a TED talk by Jonathan Haidt titled: Five Moral Values That Guide Political Choices.
In this talk, he presented a commons game to illustrate various political motivations. It is as follows:

He presented an all-anonymous commons game, in which he gave people money, and on each round of the game they can put money into a common pot.  The experimenter doubles what’s put in there and then all gets divided among the players evenly.
The game asks people to make a sacrifice where they don’t directly benefit from their own sacrifice but they want everybody to sacrifice.  Everybody then, has a temptation to free ride. 
People start out reasonably cooperative.  On the first round they typically give about half their money but then they quickly see that other people aren’t doing so much, “I don’t want to be a sucker,” “I don’t want to cooperate,” and people give less and less, quickly decaying to close to zero.
On the 7th round they introduced a new rule, if you want to give some of your own money to punish people who aren’t contributing then you can.  Cooperation then shoots up and keeps shooting up. 

He says, that to solve cooperative problems its not enough to appeal to peoples good motives.  It helps to have some sort of punishment, even if its just shame, gossip, or embarrassment.  You need some sort of punishment to bring people in large groups to cooperate. 

Pretty interesting especially when it comes to dealing in international law and policy; the global commons (oceans, air quality, pollution, climate change). 

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