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MANUNKIND: Determinants and Dynamics of Collaborative Exploitation


Chattel slavery and other forms of collaborative exploitation are with us since ancient times, inflicting unfathomable suffering on countless generations of victims. And even though slavery is outlawed globally today, its modern-day successors continue to cause severe harm for millions.

Previous research has compiled rich datasets on the prevalence of collaborative exploitation across cultures and across time. A startling gap exists in the literature, however, with respect to modeling the fundamental incentive structures of collaborative exploitation and understanding the psychological processes involved. Hence, we do not understand well how the macro-level patterns and dynamics observable in the existing data emerge from micro-level traits, decisions, and behavior.

Addressing this knowledge gap, this research proposal
- analyzes collaborative exploitation as a strategic interaction between exploiters and exploited,
- scrutinizes the psychological mechanisms and traits involved in exploitative interactions, and
- traces how the aggregation of these micro-level components into macro-level patterns and dynamics is shaped by, and interacts with, the ecological, economic, and ideological conditions it is situated in.

In doing so, I develop, test, and disseminate a versatile game theoretic framework and corresponding new paradigms for behavioral experiments to advance the multidisciplinary study of collaborative exploitation. Being the first to apply rigorous formal modeling and transparent preregistered tests of theory-grounded hypotheses against experimental and archive data to understand collaborative exploitation, this proposal advances into uncharted territory. Thus, it breaks new ground for research in several disciplines and at multiple levels of analysis. Moreover, its results can inform policy-making aiming to end modern-day slavery and other contemporary forms of exploitation -- in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 8.


Net EU contribution
€ 1 497 749,00
Minderbroedersberg 4
6200 MD Maastricht

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Limburg (NL) Zuid-Limburg
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Other funding
€ 0,00