Positive framing does not solve the tragedy of the commons


Abstract

We investigate whether positive framing increases cooperation in three social dilemmas with slightly different properties: a linear public goods (PG) game, a non-linear PG game, and a common pool resource (CPR) game. Results from our laboratory experiments show that contributions to a linear PG are higher if the externality is framed positively, rather than negatively, corroborating earlier findings by Andreoni (1995). By contrast, we find no such framing effects in the non-linear PG game or the CPR game. In these games, the best response in the material payoffs is to contribute less if others contribute more, counteracting effects of pro-social preferences. Positive framing therefore does not help to solve the tragedy of the commons.

Isaksen, Elisabeth Thuestad, Brekke, Kjell Arne and Richter, Andries (2018) Positive framing does not solve the tragedy of the commons. Journal of Environmental Economics and Management. ISSN 0095-0696