Social Dilemmas and Solutions

There are lots of specific kinds of social situations that might be considered “commons dilemmas” or “public goods dilemmas” or, more broadly, “social dilemmas.” Our readings in our applied social psychology class (particularly the articles by Hardin and by Van Vugt) highlighted some such situations.

Can you think of any other situations?
Are there particular social problems (or potential social problems) that you can think of that might fit the description of a social dilemma?
Can you identify one or more of these situations?
IT would be great if you could articulate exactly how each situation does indeed fit the description of a commons dilemma or a public goods dilemma and discuss how the dilemma might smartly be managed to avert disaster.

Readings mentioned:
Hardin, G. (1968). The tragedy of the commons. Science, 162, 1243-1248.
Van Vugt, M. (1998). The conflicts in modern society. The Psychologist. June 1998 (pp. 289-292).

Thank you for your help.
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Interesting questions!

Let’s take a closer look at some examples, which will help you come up with your own examples of social dilemmas. I also attached two articles with many different examples and both individual and collective solutions to social dilemmas that you can consider, some of which this response is drawn.


  1. Can you think of any other situations?

Social dilemmas are situations in which private interests are at odds with collective interests. Such situations arise because people frequently attach more weight to their short-term selfish interests than to the long-term interests of the group, organization, or society to which they belong. Many of the most challenging issues we face, from the interpersonal to the intergroup, are at their core social dilemmas.

According to Dawes (1980), social situations that represent a conflict between what individuals like to do (e.g., to drive a car) and what they ought to do for the welfare of society (e.g., to use sustainable forms of transportation) are referred to as social dilemmas. For example, three social dilemmas are:

(1) Every citizen enjoys the benefits of public services, such as hospitals, libraries and the police, but most will be reluctant to pay extra taxes to maintain them.
(2) Car drivers generally support the government’s plans to promote public transportation. Yet, how many drivers are prepared to voluntarily give up driving their car?
(3) Everyone perceives the need for cutting down water demands during a drought, but at the same time it is very tempting for each individual household to sprinkle their garden (from attached article).

  1. Are there particular social problems (or potential social problems) that you can think of that might fit the description of a social dilemma?

Social problems related to consumption of alcohol, use of resources, water pollution and water shortage and/ or donating money to Detroit public television might fit the description. Also, the commons dilemma stands as a …