Summary and Keywords
A social dilemma is a situation of interdependence between people in which there is conflict between doing what is best for oneself, and doing what is best for the group: Trying to produce the best personal outcome (selfishness) hurts the group effort, and contributing to the group effort (cooperation) leads to a less-than-optimal personal outcome. The best personal outcome is realized by acting for oneself when everyone else acts for the group. Because of this, if each group member does what is best for him or herself, the group will fail, and each person will end up with a poor outcome. Solution of a social dilemma thus requires that at least some people forgo selfish interest in favor of the collective. Research into social dilemmas is primarily oriented around identifying the influences on a person’s willingness to cooperate and designing interventions that will encourage more frequent cooperation. There are many real examples of social dilemmas: clean air, charities, public broadcasting, and groundwater, to name a few.
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