Why Share Houses are Always Dirty

The behavioural economics of cooperation

Humans encounter social dilemmas in all areas of life. From the group perspective, if everybody pitches in we’re all better off, so cooperation is desirable. But from the individuals’ perspective pitching in is not rational, as it detracts from their ability to pursue their own self-interest.

In some situations this clash of social and individual incentives is of only minor concern, such as when attempting to encourage residents of share houses to play their part in cleaning. In others, however, such as trying to implement global environmental protection measures, the stakes are very high indeed.

Consequently, researchers at the University of Adelaide and elsewhere have been striving to understand the causes and determinants of the one thing that overcomes social dilemmas – cooperation. And they’re making big strides.

Discussing some of the most influential research in the field, this fascinating presentation will reveal what makes people willingly cooperate, even in situations where economic theory predicts they should not. What’s more, it will show how that knowledge could provide stronger and less costly incentives for action than traditional rewards, regulation or taxes.

The presenter

Associate Professor Ralph-C Bayer is Deputy Head of the University of Adelaide School of Economics, and Founder-Director of ADLAB, the Adelaide Laboratory for Experimental Economics. He has published in many leading economics and economic psychology journals and currently holds two ARC Discovery Grants.

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