Positive framing does not solve the tragedy of the commons

Elisabeth Thuestad Isaksen, Kjell Arne Brekke, Andries Richter*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


We investigate whether positive framing increases cooperation in three social dilemmas with slightly different properties: a linear public goods (PG) game, a non-linear PG game, and a common pool resource (CPR) game. Results from our laboratory experiments show that contributions to a linear PG are higher if the externality is framed positively, rather than negatively, corroborating earlier findings by Andreoni (1995). By contrast, we find no such framing effects in the non-linear PG game or the CPR game. In these games, the best response in the material payoffs is to contribute less if others contribute more, counteracting effects of pro-social preferences. Positive framing therefore does not help to solve the tragedy of the commons.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-56
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Environmental Economics and Management
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2019


  • Common pool experiment
  • Externality
  • Framing
  • Public goods experiment
  • Rivalry
  • Strategic complements
  • Strategic substitutes

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