Perceived Task Difficulty, Causal Attributions, and Preferences for Structural Change in Resource Dilemmas Academic Article uri icon


  • This study investigated the effects of causal attributions for group performance on Preferences for structural change in resource dilemmas. Six-person groups performed a resource management task in which members harvested resource units from a common, replenishable pool. All subjects. received preprogrammed feedback that their group had failed to maintain the common resource. After 10 harvest trials, subjects voted whether to elect a group leader to manage the common pool in a second session. In a 2 × 2 factorial design, two variables were manipulated: perceived cause of group performance (task difficulty, personal greed) and attribution questionnaire (present, absent). As expected, a higher proportion of task difficulty subjects voted for a group leader than did personal greed subjects. This finding suggests that causal attributions for group performance moderate the perceived effectiveness of the structural change, thereby influencing numbers'choices in a manner consistent with structural goal/expectation theory of instrumental cooperation in social dilemmas.

published proceedings

  • Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin

author list (cited authors)

  • Samuelson, C. D

citation count

  • 24

complete list of authors

  • Samuelson, Charles D

publication date

  • April 1991