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Journal Articles

How do game design and players’ backgrounds affect extraction behavior in framed field experiments? Evidence from community forestry in India

Zhang, W., R.S. Meinzen-Dick, S. Valappanandi, R. Balakrishna, H. Reddy, M.A. Janssen, L. Thomas, P. Priyadarshini, S. Kandicuppa, R. Chaturvedi, and R. Ghate

2022 International Journal of the Commons 16(1), 341–359.


Framed field experiments (experimental games) are widely used to assess factors affecting cooperation in management of the commons. However, there is relatively little attention to how details of the games affect experimental results. This paper presents qualitative and quantitative results from a framed field experiment in which participants make decisions about extraction of a common-pool resource, a community forest. The experiment was conducted in 2017–2018 with 120 groups of resource users (split by gender) from 60 habitations in two Indian states, Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan. We test whether within-subject treatments (non-communication, communication, and optional election of institutional arrangements (rules)), remuneration methods, and design of the game board affect harvest behavior and groups’ tendency to cooperate. We also examine how characteristics of the community and players affect players’ choices in the game, with special attention to gender differences. Results reveal participants harvested substantially less than the Nash prediction even in the absence of communication, with men extracting less than women in both states. For male groups in both states, both communication and optional rule election were associated with lower group harvest per round, as compared to the reference non-communication game. For female groups in both states communication itself did not significantly slow resource depletion; but introduction of optional rule election did reduce harvest amounts. For both men and women in Andhra Pradesh and men in Rajasthan, incentivized payments to individual participants significantly lowered group harvest, relative to community flat payment, suggesting such payments stimulated deliberation among game players. Findings have methodological and practical implications for designing behavioral intervention programs to improve common-pool resource governance.


Taking a moment to measure networks—an approach to species conservation

Salau, K.R., J.A. Baggio, D.W. Shanafelt, M.A. Janssen, J.K. Abbott, and E.P. Fenichel

2022 Landscape Ecology 37(10): 2551–2569.



Network-theoretic tools contribute to understanding real-world system dynamics, such as species survival or spread. Network visualization helps illustrate structural heterogeneity, but details about heterogeneity are lost when summarizing networks with a single mean-style measure. Researchers have indicated that a system composed of multiple metrics may be a more useful determinant of structure, but a formal method for grouping metrics is still lacking.


Our objective is to present a tool that can account for multiple properties of network structure, which can be related to model outcomes.


We develop an approach using the statistical concept of moments and systematically test the hypothesis that this system of metrics is sufficient to explain variation in processes that take place on networks, using an ecological system as an example.


Our results indicate that the moments approach outperforms single summary metrics by adjusted-R2 and AIC model fit criteria, and accounts for a majority of the variation in process outcomes.


Our scheme is helpful for indicating when additional structural information is needed to describe system process outcomes such as survival or spread.


An agent-based model of the interaction between inequality, trust and communication in common pool experiments

Janssen, M.A., D.A. DeCaro, and A. Lee

2022 Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation 25(4): 3 .


An agent-based model is presented that aims to capture the involvement of inequality and trust in collective action in a classic commons dilemma before, during, and after communication. The model assumptions are based on the behavioral theory of collective action of Elinor Ostrom and the ‘humanistic rational choice theory’. The commons dilemma is represented as a spatially explicit renewable resource. Agent’s trust in others has an impact on the harvesting of shared resources, and trust is influenced by observed harvesting behavior and cheap talk. We calibrated the model using data from a prior set of lab experiments on inequality, trust, and communication. The best fit to the data consists of a population with a small share of altruistic and selfish agents and a majority of conditional cooperative agents sensitive to inequality and who would cooperate if others did. Communication increased trust explaining the better group performance when communication was introduced. The modeling results complement prior communication research and clarify the dynamics of reciprocal cooperation commonly observed in robust resource governance systems.


How to make models more useful

Barton, C.M., M.A. Janssen, A. Lee, S. van der Leeuw, G.E. Tucker, C. Porter, J. Greenberg, L. Swantek, K. Frank, M. Chen and H.R.A. Jagers

2022 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 119 (35) e2202112119.

A Perspective on the Future of Studying the Commons

Janssen, M.A.

2022 International Journal of the Commons 16(1): 243–247. .

Joint effects of voluntary participation and group selection on the evolution of altruistic punishment

Shin, H.C., S. Vallury, M.A. Janssen and D.J. Yu

2022 PLOS ONE 17(5): e0268019.


It is puzzling how altruistic punishment of defectors can evolve in large groups of nonrelatives, since punishers should voluntarily bear individual costs of punishing to benefit those who do not pay the costs. Although two distinct mechanisms have been proposed to explain the puzzle, namely voluntary participation and group-level competition and selection, insights into their joint effects have been less clear. Here we investigated what could be combined effects of these two mechanisms on the evolution of altruistic punishment and how these effects can vary with nonparticipants’ individual payoff and group size. We modelled altruistic punishers as those who contribute to a public good and impose a fine on each defector, i.e., they are neither pure punishers nor excluders. Our simulation results show that voluntary participation has negative effects on the evolution of cooperation in small groups regardless of nonparticipants’ payoffs, while in large groups it has positive effects within only a limited range of nonparticipants’ payoff. We discuss that such asymmetric effects could be explained by evolutionary forces emerging from voluntary participation. Lastly, we suggest that insights from social science disciplines studying the exit option could enrich voluntary participation models.


Highways as coupled infrastructure systems: An integrated approach to address sustainability challenges

Janssen, M.A., J.M. Anderies, A. Baeza, H.L. Breetz, T. Jasinski, H.C. Shin, and S. Vallury

2022 Sustainable and Resilient Infrastructure 7(2): 100-111.


The U.S. highway system is an iconic example of civil infrastructure. Yet it also exemplifies the challenges of infrastructure sustainability. The American Society for Civil Engineers gave the American road infrastructure a grade of “D” since the roads “are often crowded, frequently in poor condition, chronically underfunded, and are becoming more dangerous.” In this paper, we seek to understand the intertwined social and technical processes that lead to this unsustainability by examining the U.S. highway system from the perspective of coupled infrastructure systems (CIS), a transdisciplinary framework that aims to analyze governance challenges of shared resources from a dynamic systems perspective. We use highways as a special example of the broader challenge of providing and maintaining the shared infrastructure of all types. Our analysis of historical data concludes that the unsustainability of highways as coupled infrastructure systems can be explained from dysfunctional information feedbacks.


Containerization for creating reusable agent-based models

Vanegas-Ferro, A. Lee, C. Pritchard, C.M. Barton, and M.A. Janssen

2022 Socio-Environmental Systems Modelling 3.


Will you be able to run your computational models in the future? Even with well-documented code, this can be difficult due to changes in the software frameworks and operating systems that your code was built on. In this paper we discuss the use of containers to preserve code and their software dependencies to reproduce simulation results in the future. Containers are standalone lightweight packages of the original model software and their dependencies that can be run independent of the platform. As such they are suitable for reuse and sharing results. However, the use of containers is rare in the field of modeling social-environmental systems. We provide an introduction to the basic principles of containerization, argue why it would be beneficial if this tool became common practice in the field, describe a conceptual walkthrough to the process of containerizing a model, and reflect on near future directions of containerization workflows.


Assessing the Institutional Foundations of Adaptive Water Governance in South India

Vallury, S., H.C. Shin, M.A. Janssen, R.M Meinzen-Dick, S. Kandikuppa, K. Rao, R. Chaturvedi

2022 Ecology & Society 27(1): 18.


Institutional structures can fundamentally shape opportunities for adaptive governance of water resources at multiple ecological and societal scales. The properties of adaptive governance have been widely examined in the literature. However, there has been limited focus on how institutions can promote or hinder the emergence of adaptive governance. Elinor Ostrom’s institutional theory stresses the importance of formal and informal norms and rules in effective governance of natural resources. Specifically, Ostrom’s design principles (DPs) are considered important because they increase the capacity for adaptive decision making and facilitate the emergence of self-organization at smaller scales. Self-organizing agents can frequently modify rules-in-use, procedures, and technical methods to tackle changing ecological conditions and address significant management issues left by more traditional governments. In this study, we examine institutional arrangements for successful water governance by analyzing (1) the co-occurrence of DPs in irrigation systems, and (2) the combination(s) of DPs leading to social and ecological success. We collaborated with a local non-profit organization to review institutional records and conduct interviews in 50 irrigation communities in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka in South India. Using qualitative comparative analysis, we found that the effectiveness of design principles is contingent on biophysical properties, such as the size of the watershed being governed, and attributes of the community, such as population size. We also discuss the methodological and data-related challenges involved in collecting primary data for conducting a context-specific institutional analysis. Our study offers a much-needed example of empirical research that investigates the role of operational level rules in adaptive water governance.


Job Mobility and Wealth Inequality

Applegate, J.M., and M.A. Janssen

2022 Computational Economics 59(1):1-25.


The extent to which employees change jobs, known as the job mobility rate, has been steadily declining in the US for decades. This decline is understood to have a negative impact on both productivity and wages, and econometric studies fail to support any single cause brought forward. This decline coincides with decreases in household savings, increases in household debt, and wage stagnation. We propose that the decline could be the consequence of a complex interaction between mobility, savings, wages, and debt, such that if changing jobs incur costs that are paid out of savings or incurs debt in the absence of sufficient savings, a negative feedback loop is generated. People are further restricted in making moves by their debt obligations and inability to save, which in turn depresses wages further. To explore this hypothesis, we developed a stylized model in which agents chose their employment situation based on their opportunities and preferences for work and where there are costs to changing jobs and the possibility of borrowing to meet those costs. We indeed found evidence of a negative feedback loop involving changes, wages, savings, and debt, as well as evidence that this dynamic results in a level of wealth inequality on the same scale as we see today in the US.


Book Chapters

Complex Response Processes in a Multi-Agent System: A Knowledge Accelerator

Willemsen, G.T.H.J., L.M.P. Correia, and M.A. Janssen

2022 In ADAPTIVE 2022 : The Fourteenth International Conference on Adaptive and Self-Adaptive Systems and Applications, Conference proceedings page , edited by M Kurz and E. SonnLeitner, 14-21, .


Complex Responsive Processes (CRP) focus on the interaction between agents, where they exchange knowledge, opinions, experience, and values. In decentralized decision making, this could accelerate the monitoring, analysis, planning and execution process, as defined in a control mechanism like MAPE-K. For Multi-Agent Systems with a decentralized or hybrid architecture the gesture (e.g., agent expression) and response dynamics of complex responsive interaction could be valuable to reduce the entropy of a system. Until today, the CRP mechanisms have not been formalized in Multi-Agent decentralized decision making as it lacks a formal model to express inter-agent dialectics. This position paper discloses the area where an extension of the MAPE-K control cycle can be made to include the formalized CRP processes. This extension consists of a set of methods that include the responsive processes of multiple agents and will be used to update the Knowledge base in the MAPE-K model.


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