Conformity and tradition in resource governance
A recent study conducted by a team of researchers, including members of the Centre for Systems Solutions, suggest that values related to tradition and conformity have a more significant impact on resource governance than pro-environmental values or exposure to nature.
The results suggest that understanding and incorporating local values when developing incentives and policies can lead to better outcomes in resource management.
Methods: the Forest Management Game
The study employed a combination of observational and experimental techniques to examine the relationship between personal values and collective action in resource governance.
One of the methods applied was the Forest Management Game. The researchers engaged participants from eight forest-dependent sites in Uganda and Bolivia in the game. It involved eight players in each session who collectively managed a stylized forest resource over 15 rounds. In each round, players had to make decisions regarding the number of forest patches to harvest, whether to monitor other players’ actions, and whether to impose sanctions on other players.
Results and implications
Contrary to initial expectations, the study found that pro-environmental values were not strongly associated with resource governance behavior. Instead, the values of tradition and conformity demonstrated a negative and significant association with harvesting behavior in the game. This suggests that values emphasizing norm development and rule-following play a more influential role in resource governance than previously assumed.
The results suggest that understanding and incorporating local values when developing incentives and policies can lead to better outcomes in resource management. Local institutions that align with the values held by resource users may be more effective in promoting sustainable practices. In cases where such institutions are absent or inadequate, it may be necessary to develop new institutions that address the importance of tradition and conformity, particularly in settings where these values are highly valued.
Full article: journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0272366