Towards mechanistic explanations of cooperative sustainable resource use

ABM meets behavioural experiments of cooperation in common-pool resources

Behavioural economic experiments are providing new insights into the real behaviour of humans in common pool resource use, such as the use of a fish stock or water for irrigation. They have highlighted for instance the importance of communication for sustainable resource use. However, how communication is initiated and what aspects of communication are relevant is still poorly understood. In this project we develop an agent-based model based on a series of experiments that investigated the behaviour of users of a resource that can exhibit threshold dynamics, i.e. once a certain threshold of resource size is crossed its regeneration rate drastically declines. The experiments show that some groups manage to use the resource sustainably while others don’t and that the share of successful groups increases when the resource exhibits a threshold. The aim of the model is to identify possible factors and aspects of human decision making and behaviour that can explain the observed outcomes of the experiments. We develop the model using experimental data, observations and theories of human behaviour. In doing so we test hypotheses about drivers of cooperation in common pool resource use. We are particularly interested in the role of confidence about the knowledge of oneself or the group for communication and the development of sharing rules.
Keywords: human (group) behaviour, common pool resource dilemma, collective behaviour.

Models – sub-projects:

  • AgentEx-I: Explaining the lab experiments – Explaining behavioural lab experiments: Towards mechanism-based explanations of cooperative sustainable resource use ABM.
  • AgentEx-II: From lab to the field – Ecological uncertainty (perception) in small scale fisheries: Climate change – from the small-scale fisher’s point of view. Identifying critical multi-level processes for sustainable small-scale fisheries ABM.

People: Nanda Wijermans, Maja Schlüter, in collaboration with Therese Lindahl and Caroline Schill from the Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics, Stockholm.
Methods: Agent-based modelling based on behavioural experiments, Synthesis knowledge (literature, data, conversations)
Funding: No direct funding (AgentEx-I), FORMAS (AgentEx-II)
More info:

  • Schill, C., Wijermans, N., Schlüter, M., & Lindahl, T. (2016). Cooperation Is Not Enough—Exploring Social-Ecological Micro-Foundations for Sustainable Common-Pool Resource Use. PLoS ONE, 11(8), e0157796–24.
  • Nanda Wijermans, Caroline Schill, Therese Lindahl, Maja Schlüter (2016, November 13). “AgentEx” (Version 1.0.0). CoMSES Computational Model Library. Retrieved from:
  • Wijermans, N., Schill, C., Lindahl, T., & Schlüter, M. (2022). Combining approaches: Looking behind the scenes of integrating multiple types of evidence from controlled behavioural experiments through agent-based modelling. International Journal of Social Research Methodology. DOI: 10.1080/13645579.2022.2050120.