Integrating simultaneous prosocial and antisocial behavior into theories of collective action

Science Advances  04 Mar 2016:
Vol. 2, no. 3, e1501220
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1501220

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Trust and cooperation constitute cornerstones of common-pool resource theory, showing that “prosocial” strategies among resource users can overcome collective action problems and lead to sustainable resource governance. Yet, antisocial behavior and especially the coexistence of prosocial and antisocial behaviors have received less attention. We broaden the analysis to include the effects of both “prosocial” and “antisocial” interactions. We do so in the context of marine protected areas (MPAs), the most prominent form of biodiversity conservation intervention worldwide. Our multimethod approach relied on lab-in-the-field economic experiments (n = 127) in two MPA and two non-MPA communities in Baja California, Mexico. In addition, we deployed a standardized fishers’ survey (n = 544) to verify the external validity of our findings and expert informant interviews (n = 77) to develop potential explanatory mechanisms. In MPA sites, prosocial and antisocial behavior is significantly higher, and the presence of antisocial behavior does not seem to have a negative effect on prosocial behavior. We suggest that market integration, economic diversification, and strengthened group identity in MPAs are the main potential mechanisms for the simultaneity of prosocial and antisocial behavior we observed. This study constitutes a first step in better understanding the interaction between prosociality and antisociality as related to natural resources governance and conservation science, integrating literatures from social psychology, evolutionary anthropology, behavioral economics, and ecology.

  • Cooperation
  • anti-social behavior
  • common-pool resources
  • marine protected areas
  • conservation science
  • small-scale fisheries
  • governance
  • Mexico

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.

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