Sunday, June 19, 2011

Shame and honour drive cooperation

A paper recently published in the journal Biology Letters with the above title gets at the crux of a possible solution to some of our common-property management problems.  People care about their reputations and it seems that the threat of being shamed or the promise of being honored can increase cooperation, even amongst individuals who do not otherwise know each other. The authors discuss how the internet is an anonymous community yet affords the opportunity for tracking compliance and cooperation. The threat of being exposed can increase compliance and cooperation.

I wonder if this could be the basis of tracking people's energy consumption on a local scale and creating incentives to use less.  Is this an invasion of privacy if we're trying to manage a commons?  

Or, should such shame and honor be restricted to industry--which uses the most energy.  If this translates into sales (i.e., people boycott firms that waste energy and reward with their sales those that are energy efficient), perhaps it might.

Discussion questions:  how might this be implemented on a local or broader scale?

Further reading:  Jacquet, J., Hauert, C., Traulsen, A. & M. Milinski. 2011.  Shame and honour drive cooperation.  Biology Letters (published electronically on 1 June 2011).

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