Social dilemma

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Social dilemmas are situations in which collective interests are at odds with private interests. Such situations arise when faced with prioritizing either short-term selfish interests or the long-term interests of a group, organization, or society. Many of the most challenging issues, from the interpersonal to the intergroup, are at their core social dilemmas.


Social dilemmas describe situations in which the rational behaviour of an individual--defined in pure and simple economic terms--leads to suboptimal outcomes from the collective standpoint (Dawes, 1980; Kollock, 1998). Researchers frequently use the experimental games method to study social dilemmas in the laboratory. An experimental game is a situation in which participants choose between cooperative and non-cooperative alternatives, yielding consequences for themselves and others. These games are generally depicted with a pay-off matrix representing valuable outcomes for participants like money or lottery tickets.Social dilemmas are in fact a “conflict in which most beneficial action for an individual will, if chosen by most people have a harmful effect on everyone” (Aronson, Wilson, Akert,& Fehr, 2007), or vice versa.


Consider these examples. As individuals we are each better off when we make use of public services such as schools, hospitals, and recreational grounds without contributing to their maintenance. However, if everyone acted according to their narrow self-interest then...
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