be necessary since perceptions are difficult to investigate, particularly withhistorical data, but it is distressing that their validity is seldom questioned.Despiteagenerallackoftheoretical,empirical,andmethodologicalrigorregarding perception, there are some noteworthy exceptions. Psychologists
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458Burkehave suggested that the individual resource use patterns of laboratory sub-jects are affected by their perceptions of the resource base and other users.For example, laboratory subjects will adjust their use up or down to matchtheir perception of what others are doing, particularly when there is littlevariance in a group’s perceptions. If subjects perceive a severly depleted re-source base, they tend to lower their resource use, regardless of what othersaredoing.Likewise,iftheyperceivearesourcebaseisunderutilized,theywillincrease their use (see the literature review by Komorita and Parks, 1994).Also, O’Connor and Tindall (1990) noted that, while laboratory subjects usu-ally realized that they faced a dilemma between maximizing individual gainsand avoiding collective ruin, they misunderstood what it would take to re-solve the dilemma. Most subjects thought they were cooperating to preservethe resource base, but in actuality their aggregate consumption was too highfor sustainability. Stern (1976) presents laboratory evidence that educatingcommon resource users about the consequences of individual resource usecan lead to more sustainable use.In addition, a few researchers have suggested that perceptions can in-fluence collective strategies of resource use. These include rather generalstatements by Ostrom (1992), Ostrom and Schlager (1996), and Palmer andSinclair (1996) that a mutual understanding among resource users aboutthe costs and benefits of resource use is important to establishing mutuallyagreed upon rules of resource use and management. Cultural homogeneityamong resource users may facilitate agreement about the costs and bene-fits of resource use. Likewise, a number of anthropologists have done someexciting work on conservation and perception that will be discussed in thenext section.FATALISM IN ABORIGINAL CULTURES ANDCOMMON RESOURCE USEI have argued that the logic of the commons is premised on the assump-tion that users are significantly aware of resource degradation. In this and thenext section, I will describe situations where this assumption does not holdand thus the “logic of the commons” cannot validly be used to explain re-source degradation. In which case there must be other reasons for commonresource degradation. This section considers fatalism as a cause.Fatalismrefers to beliefs that the processes of nature (such as forest fires and popula-tion dynamics of species) are due to spiritual forces that leave no room forhuman influence. Resource depletion is accepted as destiny or the intentionof the gods. In this way, fatalism can prevent individuals from recognizing
Hardin’s Theory of Commons: A Critique459that their resource use contributes to resource degradation. Fatalistic beliefs
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Tragedy of the Commons, Garrett Hardin, Common-pool resource
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