The rewards of group cooperation, manifested in the $62 endowment for each participant, were given over three different time horizons. The researchers reasoned that the further away in time the rewards of acting for a collective benefit were, the less the groups would cooperate.
"We give the subjects a lot or less money and see if that changes the dynamics," Jacquet said. "It's about human behavior, and when we talk about benefits, it's about money."
There were three time horizons and situations for the allocation of the monetary incentive. In the first situation, seven out of 10 groups reached the target when the participants received their endowment after the first day of investment. When the option was to receive their endowment after seven weeks, only four of 11 groups succeeded. Lastly, if the endowment were invested in planting trees to mitigate climate change, zero out of 11 groups achieved the $165 target.
Over the course of the rounds, participants could anticipate the others' level of cooperation. In attempting to emulate the risk and reward politics of international negotiations, the researchers allowed the participants to see the accrued investments after each round. The strategy aimed to build trust and created an opportunity to evaluate the possibility of achieving the target.
"It further enables the participants to determine whether they should contribute strategically and thus help the group to reach the threshold sum or whether they should prefer the defector's payoff," the study said. Since the target investment was in the future, the experiment allowed individuals to make up for less cooperative participants, but only to a limited extent.
"It doesn't map perfectly with international negotiations, but it speaks to how policy prioritizes benefits and future investments," Jacquet said.
Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500