In this project, the psychological mechanisms underlying human prosocial behaviour are studied in a game-theoretical context. This framework has frequently been used to investigate cooperation between unrelated strangers. A lexicographical social heuristic is proposed, which models the human decision strategies likely to be used in such a context. This heuristic draws on different kinds of social information: knowledge about past behaviour of the interaction partner, probability of future interaction, and grow up membership of the partner, all of which have been identified to independently further prosocial behaviour by evolutionary, economic, and psychological research.
In three studies it is investigated:
(1) whether the decisions of adult players of a repeated prisoner's dilemma game can be modelled by the social heuristic, and
(2) if the use of this social heuristic is subject to ontogenetic changes.
Furthermore, group membership is modified by assigning participants either to trivial social categories or categories they encounter in real life. It is argued that understanding social information about group membership is itself subject to ontogenetic change and should therefore influence children's decision strategies. The work proposed here provides a novel collaboration between anthropology, experimental economics, evolutionary theory, and social and developmental psychology. The project will promote the integration of scientific concepts across fields and levels of analysis, thereby developing an infrastructure for future interdisciplinary work on human cooperation.
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