The Herdsman and the Sheep, Mouton, or Kivsa? The Influence of Group Culture on Cooperation in Social Dilemmas

  • Shirli Kopelman

Does culture influence decision making in a global economy? Without doubt, culture influences the cuisine we prefer and whether we are likely to order and enjoy a rack of lamb smothered in a Southwestern U.S.-style barbeque sauce and a cold beer, lamb stew à la Provençale with a glass of red wine, or lamb marinated in fresh herbs and served over rice along with hot mint tea. Even in an era of fusion restaurants and widespread globalization, culture may influence how decision makers manage both local and global resources in situations that risk the tragedy of the commons—the classic example being the decision of a herdsman grazing sheep1 on a common pasture whether to cooperate or defect (G. Hardin, 1968). That is, the cultural context provides insights into the problem of cooperation. We may learn how to effectively manage resources in social dilemma settings (for a review, see Dawes, 1980; Messick & Brewer, 1983; Kopelman et al., 2002), by studying solutions that arise in distinct cultural settings (e.g., McCay, 2002; Ahn et al., 2004). Furthermore, even if a global management culture may be emerging, this by no means indicates homogeneity of group-level culture. Unique subcultures continue to emerge on an organizational and institutional level in which the effect of group-level factors such as cultural values and norms is critical to understanding behavior of decision makers (e.g., Gelfand & Brett, 2004; Markus & Kitayama, 1991). Therefore, it is important to incorporate culture into both the theoretical frameworks and the empirical research on cooperation in social dilemmas.


Decision Maker Group Culture Social Motive Social Dilemma Experimental Social Psychology 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shirli Kopelman
    • 1
  1. 1.University of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

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