What is it about?

In the 2004 Olympics, the US national basketball team failed to win the gold medal despite featuring superstars such as LeBron James. This raises a fundamental question: Why do teams with highly skilled players sometimes underperform compared to teams with less skilled players? Drawing on game-theory models, this paper offers surprising insights into the impact of free-riding behavior, shedding light on such unexpected outcomes. Specifically, the paper demonstrates how improving individual efficiency can inadvertently promote excessive free-riding behavior, ultimately leading to reduced outcomes at both group and individual levels. This phenomenon is illustrated through two basic games: one on group foraging and the other on workplace cooperation. In the foraging game, an increase in available food can paradoxically lead to a decrease in food consumption, while in the workplace model, replacing workers with more skilled individuals can worsen both individual payoffs and group performance.

Featured Image

Why is it important?

The paper introduces the paradox of excessive scrounging, a concept that challenges conventional wisdom by revealing how enhancements in underlying conditions can unexpectedly lead to diminished performances. This phenomenon bears resemblance to Braess's paradox, albeit with a distinct focus on the interplay between cooperation and free-riding behavior. While Braess's paradox addresses congestion in networks, the paradox of excessive scrounging concerns group foraging contexts. By shedding light on this counterintuitive phenomenon, the paper offers valuable insights into the mechanisms underlying the emergence of free-riding behavior in various contexts, from team dynamics to ecological systems.


Writing this article was a great pleasure. It combines two subjects that I am enthusiastic about: game theory and the evolution of cooperation. The exploration of this paradox has lingered in my mind for several years, and it took time to find the most elegant and meaningful settings for it to unfold. I hope you find this article thought-provoking.

Amos Korman
University of Haifa

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Abundant resources can trigger reduced consumption: Unveiling the paradox of excessive scrounging, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, March 2024, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,
DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2322955121.
You can read the full text:



The following have contributed to this page