What Are Examples of Social Traps in Psychology?


Jane Flores

Social traps are situations where individuals, groups, or societies engage in behavior that leads to short-term benefits but long-term negative consequences. In psychology, social traps are studied to understand why people make choices that are not beneficial in the long run.

There are several examples of social traps that can occur in our everyday lives. In this article, we will discuss some of the most common examples of social traps in psychology.

The Tragedy of the Commons

The tragedy of the commons is a classic example of a social trap. It occurs when individuals consume a shared resource without considering the impact on others. For example, overfishing is a tragedy of the commons because fishermen will continue to fish even if it leads to depletion of fish stocks and negative consequences for future generations.

Prisoner’s Dilemma

The prisoner’s dilemma is another classic example of a social trap. It involves two individuals who have been arrested for committing a crime together.

They are both given the option to cooperate with each other and stay silent or betray each other and confess to the crime. If both individuals cooperate, they will receive a reduced sentence, but if one person betrays the other, they will receive a harsher sentence.

Social Loafing

Social loafing occurs when individuals exert less effort in group settings compared to when they work alone. This is because people believe that their individual efforts will not be noticed in group settings. This can lead to decreased productivity and poor performance.

Group Polarization

Group polarization occurs when group discussion leads members to adopt more extreme views than they had originally held. This can happen because people want to conform to group norms or because they want their views to be seen as more extreme than others in the group.

The Bystander Effect

The bystander effect is another example of a social trap. It occurs when individuals do not offer help in an emergency situation because they assume that someone else will take care of it. This can lead to a dangerous situation where no one takes action.


Social traps are common in our everyday lives, and they can have serious consequences. By understanding the psychology behind social traps, we can make better choices and avoid negative outcomes.

The examples discussed here are just a few of the many social traps that can occur. It is important to recognize these situations and make conscious decisions that benefit everyone in the long run.