In many real world contexts individuals find themselves in situations where they have to decide between options of behaviour that serve a collective purpose or behaviours which satisfy one’s private interests, ignoring the collective. In some cases the underlying social dilemma (Dawes, 1980) is solved and we observe collective action (Olson, 1965). In others social mobilisation is unsuccessful. The central topic of social dilemma research is the identification and understanding of mechanisms which yield to the observed cooperation and therefore resolve the social dilemma. It is the purpose of this thesis to contribute this research field for the case of public good dilemmas. To do so, existing work that is relevant to this problem domain is reviewed and a set of mandatory requirements is derived which guide theory and method development of the thesis.
In particular, the thesis focusses on dynamic processes of social mobilisation which can foster or inhibit collective action. The basic understanding is that success or failure of the required process of social mobilisation is determined by heterogeneous individual preferences of the members of a providing group, the social structure in which the acting individuals are contained, and the embedding of the individuals in economic, political, biophysical, or other external contexts.
To account for these aspects and for the involved dynamics the methodical approach of the thesis is computer simulation, in particular agent-based modelling and simulation of social systems. Particularly conductive are agent models which ground the simulation of human behaviour in suitable psychological theories of action. The thesis develops the action theory HAPPenInGS (Heterogeneous Agents Providing Public Goods) and demonstrates its embedding into different agent-based simulations. The thesis substantiates the particular added value of the methodical approach: Starting out from a theory of individual behaviour, in simulations the emergence of collective patterns of behaviour becomes observable. In addition, the underlying collective dynamics may be scrutinised and assessed by scenario analysis. The results of such experiments reveal insights on processes of social mobilisation which go beyond classical empirical approaches and yield policy recommendations on promising intervention measures in particular.