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In this paper we study the role of informal low-cost interventions such as providing information about behavior of one’s peer group, as a mechanism to improve the performance of farmland conservation programs. We focus on a specific policy that has high ecological significance because of its emphasis on spatially coordinated land uses – the Agglomeration Bonus. Prior research has indicated that strategic uncertainty within the economic environment of the Agglomeration Bonus (resembling a coordination game with multiple payoff ranked Nash Equilibria) can lead to coordination failure and limited spatial coordination on the payoff efficient strategy (that corresponds to the land use with higher ecosystem benefits). High levels of strategic uncertainty can be a result of large community sizes where landowners’ actions are interdependent, limited information about others’ behavior and conservative payoffs that may make coordination riskier and less attractive. In this context, we consider a laboratory experiment in which we reduce participants’ strategic uncertainty by varying the amount of information available to them. In control sessions, groups of 12 individuals (arranged on a circular local network on which every individual has 2 strategic neighbors) participate in an Agglomeration Bonus game and receive payoffs and information about both their neighbors’ actions. In the treatment sessions, in addition to this information, subjects are also informed about the choices of all members of the group (including their own and their strategic neighbors’ actions). Additionally, we reduce the group size from 12 to 8 subjects to further decrease game strategic uncertainty. Our results indicate that more information in smaller groups significantly improves the likelihood of making the efficient choice. However, repeated interaction leads to a reduction in the likelihood of choosing the efficient action unless both neighbors make the same choice. Analysis of group level spatial patterns indicate no significant treatment effect with increase in instances of coordination failure over time. Thus our treatment implementation while successful in increasing the likelihood of efficient choices, does not ensure that these choices are by adjacent individuals which is necessary for environmental successes. Thus, informal mechanisms that involve providing information about one’s social peers is not expected to improve policy performance even if individuals interact with each other in smaller groups. Additional mechanisms are needed to maintain the positive effect of information and incentivize spatially contiguous efficient land use choices in the long run.


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