Abundant resources can trigger reduced consumption: Unveiling the paradox of excessive scrounging

Robin Vacus, Amos Korman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

In ecological contexts, it is conventionally expected that increased food availability would boost consumption, particularly when animals prioritize maximizing their food intake. This paper challenges this conventional wisdom by conducting an in-depth game-theoretic analysis of a basic foraging model, in which animals must choose between intensive food searching as producers or moderate searching while relying on group members as scroungers. Our study reveals that, under certain circumstances, increasing food availability can amplify the inclination to scrounge to such an extent that it leads to a reduction in animals' food consumption compared to scenarios with limited food availability. We further illustrate a similar phenomenon in a model capturing free-riding dynamics among workers in a company. We demonstrate that, under certain reward mechanisms, enhancing workers' production capacities can inadvertently trigger a surge in free-riding behavior, leading to both diminished group productivity and reduced individual payoffs. Our findings provide intriguing insights into the complex relationships between individual and group performances, as well as the intricate mechanisms underlying the emergence of free-riding behavior in competitive environments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e2322955121
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume121
Issue number13
DOIs
StatePublished - 26 Mar 2024

Keywords

  • Braess paradox
  • cooperation
  • foraging
  • free-riding
  • game theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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