Fixed link

Plasticity facilitates sustainable growth in the commons

Matteo Cavaliere, Juan F. Poyatos

posted on 17 September 2012

pdf ps other (437 views, 677 download, 0 comments)

In the commons, communities whose growth depends on public goods, individuals often rely on surprisingly simple strategies, or heuristics, to decide whether to contribute to the common good (at risk of exploitation by free-riders). Although this appears a limitation, here we show how four heuristics lead to sustainable growth by exploiting specific environmental constraints. The two simplest ones --contribute permanently or switch stochastically between contributing or not-- are first shown to bring sustainability when the public good efficiently promotes growth. If efficiency declines and the commons is structured in small groups, the most effective strategy resides in contributing only when a majority of individuals are also contributors. In contrast, when group size becomes large, the most effective behavior follows a minimal-effort rule: contribute only when it is strictly necessary. Both plastic strategies are observed in natural systems what presents them as fundamental social motifs to successfully manage sustainability.