Social Dilemma, Social Exchange Theory and Clean India

“Those who spit after chewing betel leaves and tobacco have no consideration for feelings of others.”

M.K Gandhi

There is a famous conflict mode inventory called Thomas Kilmann conflict mode instrument. It tells us where you stand on assertive vs. cooperative scale. If you are too cooperative then you end up accommodating, if you are too assertive then you get in competition mode, ideal is balance between two i.e. collaborating.


In social psychology there is interesting phenomenon called social dilemma. It is a situation in which there is conflict between individual and collective interest. Suppose a lake has plenty of fish. Should you be selfish enough to do overfishing just because it is a free resource or you should keep control on your fishing activities so that other too get benefit of this free resource?

Game theory deals with many such problems like prisoner’s dilemma, tragedy of commons etc.

There is one more theory in social psychology called social exchange theory. Theory states that our social behaviour is result of an exchange process, and in this exchange process we always try to maximise benefits and minimise costs associated with it. We always want more by spending less.


These theories explain why India is not clean. Our selfishness prevents us from seeing benefits of cleanliness to nation. We don’t mind throwing garbage, spitting, defecating in public etc. as there is no cost associated with this “benefit”, since government does not penalise us for destroying our common resources.





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