The effect of mood on cooperation and willingness to adopt a structural solution within a resource dilemma
Large-scale environmental issues, such as global warming, are difficult to resolve. Many people believe that the solution to global warming will require some form of structural solution. A structural solution transforms a social dilemma so that cooperation is viewed as a more viable option. The purpose of the current study was to examine how mood would affect cooperation and willingness to give up free access in favor of a structural solution within a resource dilemma. Two hundred fifteen undergraduate students were randomly assigned to the 4 (Mood: anger, sadness, happiness, control) X 2 (Use: Optimal Use versus Overuse) between participants design. Cooperation was measured within a 10-trial resource dilemma, and their attributions for the success or failure of the resource were assessed. Finally, they were given the opportunity to vote to play a second round of the game using the status quo or one of three structural solutions: Harvest Cap, Leader, Computer Monitoring System.
Results were largely inconclusive. Although well-validated mood manipulations were employed, the manipulations were largely ineffective at producing the desired moods. Mood did not have the predicted effect on cooperation or willingness to adopt a structural solution. There was a main effect of use on cooperation, indicating that those participants who experienced a rapidly depleting resource cooperated more (consumed less) than when the resource was being optimally used. Measured mood (particularly sadness) predicted willingness to adopt a structural solution. Discussion focuses on why the mood manipulation was largely ineffective and possible reasons for the lack of support for the predictions. Future studies should use a mood manipulation that connects more strongly to the dilemma situation, and measure consequential changes in both processing and behavior.