Peter Bednarik

Peter Bednarik has designed a computer game based on the forestry sector, and is using it to investigate the conditions under which a “tragedy of the commons” would be avoided.

Common goods such as climate, clean air, or fish stocks, can be threatened by over-exploitation. In the worst case, this may lead to the collapse of the entire resource, a “tragedy of the commons”. As part of the cross-cutting project “Equitable governance of Common Goods” I examine whether such tragedies are inevitable and advance research by including social context in our models. I designed a Common Pool Resource game in which participants can harvest trees for income. Additionally, the forest serves as a protection against floods. I predicted is that this additional feature would cause participants to be more careful, and therefore more cooperative in managing the forest.    

With the project team, I conducted experiments with 200 students. Each round, participants had one minute to harvest as many trees as they liked and another minute to view results, including possible floods. A chat box allowed them to communicate. For some games, floods could cause damage if not enough trees were left. Each round, a proportion of the trees regrew.

The danger of floods significantly increased cooperation in maintaining the resource. However, the resulting increase in efficiency was not sufficient to compensate for occasional losses from floods. Hence, the final payoffs where similar with and without floods.

More information

Funding: IIASA Postdoctoral Program

Nationality: Austrian

Programs: Evolution and Ecology & Risk and Resilience Programs

Dates: February 2015 – May 2018

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Last edited: 17 January 2017


Aleksandra Cofala

Postdoc Coordinator and YSSP Administrative Assistant Capacity Development and Academic Training Unit


Postdoctoral research at IIASA


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