Playing nice in the sandbox: On the role of heterogeneity, trust and cooperation in common-pool resources

Fijnanda van Klingeren*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


The increasing heterogeneity of populations affects cooperation in common-pool resources in a time where the depletion of natural resources is a growing problem. This study investigates the effects of economic and sociocultural heterogeneity on trust and cooperation in common-pool resources using a laboratory experiment. The experiment comprises two Investment Games and a Common-Pool Resource Game, with a sample of 344 subjects from the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. By measuring the effects of economic and sociocultural heterogeneity separately as well as combined, this study disentangles the effects of specific heterogeneity types on cooperation in common-pool resources; something that has not been done before. Higher levels of trusting behaviour are found to have a positive effect on cooperation on the micro- and macro-level over time. While theory suggests negative effects of both forms of heterogeneity on cooperation through decreased levels of trust, the results show a surprising positive effect of economic heterogeneity on cooperation, but a negative effect if economic and sociocultural heterogeneity are combined. This study concludes that economic inequality can promote cooperation in CPRs, unless this inequality is lined up with sociocultural differences.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0237870
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number8 August
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (University of Oxford) and Nuffield College (University of Oxford). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. I want to thank colleagues from the CESS laboratory for assisting me with conducting the Oxford-based experiments. I want to thank Prof. Dr. Ir. Vincent Buskens for providing support during the development of my experiment and for hosting me at the ELSE lab of Utrecht University together with Dr. Rense Corten. I would also like to thank Dr. Ozan Askoy for providing useful feedback, and Roberto Cerina and other Nuffield College colleagues for discussing my research with me on multiple accounts. Lastly, I would like to thank Prof. Nan Dirk de Graaf for his support.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright: © 2020 Fijnanda van Klingeren. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


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