The Path to Cooperative Action during Group Social Dilemmas: A Literature Review, Set of Propositions, and Model Describing How the Opportunity to Communicate Encourages Cooperation

Charles Pavitt


A social dilemma is a circumstance in which each of an aggregate of people must make an individual decision whether to acquire a short-term benefit for themselves or to forego some of that benefit for the long-term benefit of the aggregate.  The intent of this essay is to describe how communication, in terms of  both the opportunity to talk and the content of what is said, interacts with other “cooperative mechanisms” – group identity, reciprocity and equity norms, and trust and trustworthiness – to largely determine individual cooperation versus defection.  Two variables with relatively complex impacts on the cooperative mechanisms – social value orientation and group size – are also discussed.  A model and set of propositions relating these variables are also included, and areas for further are explored.


social dilemma, resource dilemma, public goods dilemma, group identity, social norms, trust, trustworthiness, communication, cooperation, social value orientation, group size

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