Enhancing human cooperation in the use of limited and depletable resources is of central concern to environmental management and human welfare. Behavioral models of cooperation have, to date, focused on inter-party dynamics such as reciprocity, punishment, or reputation in distribution of resources generally indexed by points, money, or effort. We argue that these models fail to account for a key driver of cooperative behavior – the non-monetary value people attach to resources. Across two behavioral experiments we model the effect of attaching non-monetary value to a resource within a resource dilemma game. When players believed that exhausting a resource would lead to the immediate death of live crickets they reduced personal consumption, equating to increased cooperation and greater collective benefit, relative to players given the standard instructions. Our findings provide insight into a largely untapped avenue through which to leverage cooperative behavior; emphasizing the non-monetary and non-tradable value of a resource.
- Resource dilemma