The classical theoretical prediction for the “commons dilemma” is as tragedy. The situation popularized as “the tragedy of the commons” became intriguing because beneath this unfortunate and surely undesired result of collective action laid the model of “rational actor”. Yet, the messiness of alternative theories of human behavior has been motive of hesitation to adopt more realistic assumptions than those of the rational choice to address collective action. Still, a deeper understanding of the interplay among cognition, values systems, and institutions should be the starting point for any discussion of societal change. In this paper, we present a new approach to advance the theory of collective action by combining the framework of institutional analysis with Clare Graves’s theory of adult biopsychosocial development. Moreover, we sketch an empirical strategy for investigating the behavioral hypotheses resulting from the Graves’ model using experimental CPR (common-pool resource) games. The results from the suggested approach promise to be a valuable improvement toward a more integral approach to collective action problems and sustainability.


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