Understanding the black box of communication in a common-pool resource field experiment

Maria Claudia Lopez, Sergio Villamayor-Tomas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


© 2016 It is well proven that communication enhances cooperation in public goods and common-pool resource experiments. It is less well understood why and how communication affects cooperative behavior and whether that impact is mediated by the sharing of a common context and the individuals’ every day experiences. This paper aims to close this gap by means of a systematic content analysis of communication transcripts from field experiments. The paper analyzes communication statements shared by participants in a series of common-pool resource experiments conducted in rural Colombia. We first classified each statement under two categories: topic and function. Then, we tested hypotheses about the impact of those statements on cooperation depending on (1) their reference to the “field context” and other topic categories; and (2) the “informational”, “disapproval”, or “group solidarity” function of the statements. According to our results, statements that contain references to the context affect cooperation depending on the function of those statements. When the statements fulfill an information role, the effect is negative, but when statements have the function of enhancing group solidarity, the effect is positive. The statements that have the strongest positive impact on cooperation are those fulfilling a disapproval function, particularly when the topic of the messages are the payoffs obtained by the group.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69-79
JournalEnvironmental Science and Policy
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2017


  • CPR experiments
  • Collective action
  • Communication
  • Content analysis
  • Field experiments


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