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Releasing Prisoners Of The Paradigm: Understanding How Cooperation Varies Across Contexts In The Lab And Field

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - COOPERATION (Releasing Prisoners Of The Paradigm: Understanding How Cooperation Varies Across Contexts In The Lab And Field)

Reporting period: 2018-08-01 to 2020-01-31

This project has two objectives to further understand when and how people cooperate. Cooperation can be generally defined as people engaging in behaviors that benefit others (even sometimes at a cost to oneself). First, I am developing a databank that contains the results from the entire history of research on human cooperation – over 3,000 studies. Then I will use this databank to further address some specific research questions understanding when and how people choose to cooperate, such as how cooperation varies across societies. Second, I am developing and testing a new theory about how people think about their interdependence with others and the important role this has in understanding human cooperation.

Human cooperation is a pillar of society. Government institutions, public goods (e.g. parks, schools, charities), organizations, and sustainable resource consumption, all depend on people coming together and making contributions to provide and maintain these valuable aspects of society. For decades, scientists have been testing theory about human cooperation using a standardized experimental method. I am aggregating this information in a single databank that can be used to better compare across studies and identify patterns in the data that can be useful in understanding human cooperation. This knowledge can be used to promote cooperation. Further, my team developed a measure about how people think about their interdependence with others and found that this has important implications for understanding cooperation. This can lead to innovative approaches in communicating how people depend on each other to promote public goods, which can ultimately lead to higher rates of cooperation.

The overall objectives are to build the databank and develop the theory about interdependence and cooperation. These objectives will advance our scientific understanding of cooperation and the findings may be used to further promote cooperation.
I completed writing a theory paper, a review paper, a and measurement paper on how people think about thier interdependence with others. These were published in the best journals in Social Psychology, including one handbook chapter on this topic published in Oxford University Press (see below).

Molho, C., & Balliet, D. (in press). Navigating interdependent social situations. In. D. Funder, J. Rauthmann, & R. Sherman (Eds.). The Oxford Handbook of Psychological Situations. New York: Oxford University Press.

Gerpott, F. H., Balliet, D., Columbus, S., Molho, C., & De Vries, R. E. (in press). How Do People Think About Interdependence? A Multidimensional Model of Subjective Outcome Interdependence. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Balliet, D., Tybur, J. M., & Van Lange, P. A. M. (2017). Functional interdependence theory: An evolutionary account of social situations. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 21, 361-388.

I am making good progress on developing the Cooperation databank. We have now approximately 2,000 coded studies and an additional 1,500 studies to code. I have one published meta-analysis from this effort, but we are waiting to complete the coding before we can continue with additional meta-analyses. I currently have 10 people coding studies for the databank, and I have begun a collaboration with computer scientists to develop the databank. I have also conducted a one day work shop with an advisory board for the databank.

Pletzer, J. L., Balliet, D. P., Joireman, J., Kuhlman, D. M., Voelpel, S. & Van Lange, P. A. M. (in press). Social value orientation, expectations, and cooperation: A meta-analysis. European Journal of Personality.

My team has hosted a premier international conference on social dilemmas (see link below).

I have conducted 3 studies comparing models of how people perceive interdependence, and that project continues as we will conduct more studies. I have also conducted two experience sampling studies and we have written and submitted our first publication from those studies.
I have developed a new measurement instrument to assess how people think about their interdependence in a situation and this was published in a top journal in social psychology. This is a multidimensional measure of perceived interdependence, and should be useful across a number of different disciplines and research topics. We have already used this measurement tool to advance our understanding about the types of situations people frequently encounter in their dialy lives.

We have been the first to use experience sampling methods to understand cooperation daily life and that situations when people choose to cooperate. Paper is now submitted for publication. here is an overview of our initial findings:

The Prisoner’s Dilemma has been a standard model of social interactions across disciplines, reflecting a belief that life regularly involves conflicts of interests that hinder cooperation. Yet, human social interactions could often involve corresponding interests, with people equally depending on each other for mutual gain, as in the Stag Hunt. Still, little is known about the prevalence of the different social situations people experience. We sampled situations from people’s daily lives, and found that most social interactions involve moderate mutual dependence, equal power, and corresponding interests. This type of interdependence was associated with high rates of cooperation in daily life and in lab experiments. Our findings suggest that if scientists want to explain the abundant cooperation among humans, future research must move beyond the narrow band of interdependent situations presently studied, including the Prisoner’s Dilemma, and give increasing attention to behavior in situations with corresponding interests, like the Stag Hunt.

Thus, we are the first to provide empirical evidence that can guide reseachers towards the study of behavior in the types of situations that people most commonly experience. This should enhance the ecological validity of coopeation research and make research findings more relevant to understanding how people cooperate in thier daily lives.

We are currently developing a databank that will contain the entire history of research on human cooperation – the first of its kind in the social sciences. And we are collaborating with social scientists to develop an interface with this data. This will be an incredibly innovative approach to aggregating scientific information in the social sceinces. The model we develop may also transer and be used by any scientific discipline.