Commons and Cognition

19 Theoretical Inquiries in Law 587 (2018)

Arizona Legal Studies Discussion Paper No. 19-23

31 Pages Posted: 18 Nov 2019

See all articles by Carol M. Rose

Carol M. Rose

University of Arizona - James E. Rogers College of Law

Date Written: 2018

Abstract

Garrett Hardin’s Tragedy of the Commons describes the cognitive state of a hypothetical herder on a common grassy field, who calculates that he will benefit most by grazing his stock in full while suffering only a fraction of the lost grass, but if other herders act similarly the field will be decimated. Hardin’s herder is both ignorant of and indifferent to other herders and the field itself. Other commons theorists, however, suggest that the actors’ cognitive stances largely depend on the scale of the commons. Participants in the Prisoner’s Dilemma (a very small commons) appear to be dominated by distrust rather than ignorance or indifference. Participants in mid-sized commons—such as Hardin’s herders in real life—show some distrust, but also great knowledge and engagement in common pool management. Participants in the largest-scale commons issues, such as climate, are actually those most likely to exhibit the herder’s supposed ignorance and indifference. This article discusses the ways in which these different cognitive stances track the scale of collective action “tragedies” and concludes by discussing the cognitive aspects of climate change.

Keywords: Garrett Hardin, Tragedy of the Commons, Prisoner’s Dilemma, herder problem, scale of commons, cognition, climate change

Suggested Citation

Rose, Carol Marguerite, Commons and Cognition (2018). 19 Theoretical Inquiries in Law 587 (2018); Arizona Legal Studies Discussion Paper No. 19-23. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3487575

Carol Marguerite Rose (Contact Author)

University of Arizona - James E. Rogers College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 210176
Tucson, AZ 85721-0176
United States
520-621-5544 (Phone)
520-621-9140 (Fax)

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