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Investigating the sustainable use of common resources by means of a video game

Grant number: 15/25392-4
Support type:Scholarships in Brazil - Doctorate
Effective date (Start): April 01, 2016
Effective date (End): August 31, 2019
Field of knowledge:Humanities - Psychology - Experimental Psychology
Principal researcher:Júlio César Coelho de Rose
Grantee:Julio César de Camargo
Home Institution: Centro de Educação e Ciências Humanas (CECH). Universidade Federal de São Carlos (UFSCAR). São Carlos , SP, Brazil
Associated scholarship(s):17/23247-2 - A step forward in behavioral research using the full potential of technological advancement, BE.EP.DR


The literature regarding the use of renewable natural resources has shown significant findings concerning the importance of social control and verbal mediation on the establishment of sustainable practices in self-organized communities. However, in situations in which the extension of the resource system is very broad and shared by several people acting isolated each other, the overuse of the resource units become more likely, requiring behavioral changes to the establishment of a sustainable pattern of consumption among the members of the society. Unfortunately, while the applied researches in this theme are hampered by methodological, bureaucratic, and financial issues, experiments that propose the study of analogues of cultural practices in laboratory need to overcome the challenge to reproduce, in a reliable manner, the conflict which is in the core of the problems related to the use of common resources (i.e., the conflict between short-term individual gains, and delayed aversive consequences that affect the group as a whole). Aiming to overcome this challenge, this research proposes the use of a video game to investigate the effects of two kind of consequences (i.e., the gain of extra points and the loss of points) on the behavior of extraction of resources shared by participants in a social isolation situation. The game, which will be developed to touch-screen smartphones, will introduce a simulated ocean fishery shared by three fishers acting isolated each other. Several fish will appear and disappear of the game screen in random positions and sequences, so that the player, to catch the fish, must to touch on them with the fingertips before they disappear. To survive in the game, will be necessary to catch a minimal amount of fish. At the same time that will be necessary catch the fish to proceed in the game, the player must be alert to the amount of fish available in the ocean. If the fish runs out, the game will end. Therefore, to win, the player must to keep himself in the game, surviving and maintaining the resources, for at least 5 minutes. Two studies will be conducted, both with college students: in Study 1 (N = 72) each participant will play the game jointly with virtual fishers, whereas, in Study 2, the participants (N = 72) will play in teams composed by three members. Both the studies will feature a group design and the participants will be equally distributed into three conditions: Control, Bonus, and Fines. In the Control condition, no variable will be manipulated and the game will occurs as previously described. The Bonus condition will be characterized by the presentation of extra point contingent to the reduced consumption of fish. In the Fines condition, points will be removed contingent to an increased pattern of consumption. Data will be analyzed considering, mainly, the amount of fish catch (cumulated frequency of responses) and the number of repetitions necessary to win the game. In addition to the analysis of the effects of the manipulated variables in each study, by the end of the research will be possible to compare the results, pointing up, for example, to advantages and handicaps in conduct the data collection in an individualized or in a collective manner. It is expected, therefore, open space to a more accurate and reliable way to studying a very complex and relevant phenomenon as the conflict between immediate reinforcement consequences and long-term aversive effects for the group. This could bring important contributions to the proposal of new researches and interventions, as well as the design of public policies regarding the preservation of natural resources that are so important to the survival of individuals in the present and the future.

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