Cooperation becomes more difficult as a group becomes larger, but it is unclear where it will break down. Here, we study group size within well-functioning social-ecological systems. We consider centuries-old evidence from hundreds of communities in the Alps that harvested common property resources. Results show that the average group size remained remarkably stable over about six centuries, in contrast to a general increase in the regional population. The population more than doubled, but although single groups experienced fluctuations over time, the average group size remained stable. Ecological factors, such as managing forest instead of pasture land, played a minor role in determining group size. The evidence instead indicates that factors related to social interactions had a significant role in determining group size. We discuss possible interpretations of the findings based on constraints in individual cognition and obstacles in collective decision making.

Group size in social-ecological systems

Casari, Marco
;
Tagliapietra, Claudio
2018

Abstract

Cooperation becomes more difficult as a group becomes larger, but it is unclear where it will break down. Here, we study group size within well-functioning social-ecological systems. We consider centuries-old evidence from hundreds of communities in the Alps that harvested common property resources. Results show that the average group size remained remarkably stable over about six centuries, in contrast to a general increase in the regional population. The population more than doubled, but although single groups experienced fluctuations over time, the average group size remained stable. Ecological factors, such as managing forest instead of pasture land, played a minor role in determining group size. The evidence instead indicates that factors related to social interactions had a significant role in determining group size. We discuss possible interpretations of the findings based on constraints in individual cognition and obstacles in collective decision making.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11585/657122
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