The Environmentalist who Cried Drought: Reactions to Repeated Warnings about Depleting Resources Under Conditions of Uncertainty

Joireman, J., Posey, D., Truelove, H., & Parks, C. (2009). The environmentalist who cried drought: Reactions to repeated warnings about depleting resources under conditions of uncertainty. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 29(2), 181-192.

Three studies examined the impact of warnings about depleting resources. In Study 1, participants played 16 trials of a 5-person resource dilemma game with complete resource uncertainty. After trial 12, participants were told they were close to depleting the resource, and thereafter received no additional warnings. Size of harvests dropped after the warning, but rebounded within 3 trials to pre-warning levels, a pattern stronger under low harvesting variability. In Study 2, participants received warnings after trials 12 and 16 of a 22-trial game. Again, harvesting dropped after the first warning, but rebounded to pre-warning levels within 3 trials, a pattern stronger under a short-term vs. a long-term warning. Harvesting was unaffected by the second warning. In Study 3, when participants received no feedback about others’ harvests, harvesting dropped after both warnings, and was lower among those led to believe the resource would last a short number of trials.

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