Individual Values and Social Goals in Environmental Decision Making
Environmental problems can be viewed as a failure of cooperation: individual choices are seemingly made based on individual benefits, rather than benefits for all. The game-theoretic structure of these problems thus resembles commons dilemmas or similar multiplayer strategic choices, in which the incentives to eschew cooperation can lead to unfavorable outcomes for all the players. Such problems can sometimes be restructured by punishing noncooperators. However, cooperation can also be enhanced when individuals adopt intrinsic values, such as cooperation, as a result of social goals to affiliate with a group. We define a social goal as any goal to affiliate with a group, and also any goal that derives from any group affiliation.
We suggest that individual decision making in group contexts depends on a variety of different types of social goals, including conformity to group norms, sharing success, and carrying out group-role obligations. We present a classification of social goals and suggest how these goals might be used to understand individual and group behavior. In several lab- and field-based studies, we show how our classification of social goals can be used to structure observation and coding of group interactions. We present brief accounts of two laboratory experiments, one demonstrating the relationship between group affiliation and cooperation, the second exploring differences in goals that arise when a decision problem is considered by groups rather than individuals. We also sketch three field projects in which these ideas help to clarify processes involved in decisions based on seasonal climate information.
Identifying social goals as elements of rational decision making leads in turn to a wide variety of questions about tradeoffs involving social goals, and about the effects of uncertainty and delay in goal attainment on tradeoffs involving social goals. Recognizing a variety of context-dependent goals leads naturally to consideration of decision rules other than utility maximization, both in descriptive and in prescriptive analysis. Although these considerations about social goals and decision rules apply in most decision-making domains, they are particularly important for environmental decision making, because environmental problems typically involve many players, each with multiple economic, environmental, and social goals, and because examples abound where the players fail to attain the widespread cooperation that would benefit everyone (compared to widespread noncooperation).
KeywordsSocial Goal Climate Forecast Social Dilemma Environmental Decision Mutual Cooperation
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