Comparing Public Goods with Common Pool Resources: Three Experiments Academic Article uri icon


  • We examine whether public goods and common pool resources generate equivalent levels of cooperation when the payoffs are the same. Two theoretical perspectives seem to contradict each other on the equivalence issue. Prospect theory implies that settings involving common pool resources should generate higher levels of cooperation than settings involving public goods; expected utility theory implies that the two settings should generate the same levels of cooperation. We conduct three experiments to examine the predictions of nonequivalence by prospect theory, and find that common pool resources generate higher levels of cooperation on first trials in both static and dynamic contexts. If no interaction with other group members is added, the higher levels of cooperation in resource settings remain in static settings. In dynamic settings, however, where the resource itself changes, the higher levels of cooperation in resource settings are short-lived. In both dynamic and static settings, the addition of group interaction seems to eliminate the initial differences in levels of cooperation.

published proceedings

  • Social Psychology Quarterly

author list (cited authors)

  • Sell, J., & Son, Y.

citation count

  • 47

complete list of authors

  • Sell, Jane||Son, Yeongi

publication date

  • June 1997