Environmental and Resource Economics

, Volume 55, Issue 3, pp 387–405 | Cite as

Context Effects in a Negatively Framed Social Dilemma Experiment

  • Kent D. MesserEmail author
  • Jordan F. Suter
  • Jubo Yan


A number of studies of the positively-framed voluntary contribution mechanism (VCM) public goods game have examined the role of context on participant behavior. Relatively little attention, however, has been given to the effects of context in negatively-framed VCM games even though this setting is relevant to a wide array of real world challenges, such as common pool resource use and pollution externalities. This study uses a carefully-controlled laboratory experiment to investigate the degree to which the context in which decisions are made influences decision making in a negatively-framed VCM laboratory experiment. The context treatments that we evaluate vary communication, voting, and the status quo of the initial endowment. Results indicate that providing groups the opportunity to communicate and vote significantly reduces choices that impose external costs. Importantly, the pro-social effects of communication and voting are strongest when the status quo endowment is the private account, which generates costs on other participants. This result suggests that the effect of the status quo endowment is a function of whether the social dilemma is framed positively or negatively when communication between participants is allowed.


Negative externality Voluntary contribution mechanism Cheap talk Voting Status quo bias Experimental economics 


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Applied Economics and StatisticsUniversity of DelawareNewarkUSA
  2. 2.Department of EconomicsOberlin CollegeOberlinUSA
  3. 3.Department of Applied Economics and ManagementCornell UniversityIthacaUSA

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