Social Heuristics Shape Intuitive Cooperation

Nature Communications (2014) 5:3677

30 Pages Posted: 23 Feb 2013 Last revised: 20 Jan 2016

See all articles by David G. Rand

David G. Rand

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Alexander Peysakhovich

Yale University - Human Cooperation Lab

Gordon T. Kraft-Todd

Yale University, Faculty of Arts & Sciences, Department of Psychology

George Newman

Yale School of Management

Owen Wurzbacher

Harvard College

Martin Nowak

Harvard University

Joshua D. Greene

Harvard University - Department of Psychology

Date Written: April 3, 2014

Abstract

Cooperation is central to human societies. Yet relatively little is known about the cognitive underpinnings of cooperative decision-making. Does cooperation require deliberate self-restraint? Or is spontaneous prosociality reined in by calculating self-interest? Here we present a theory of why (and for whom) intuition favors cooperation: cooperation is typically advantageous in everyday life, leading to the formation of generalized cooperative intuitions. Deliberation, by contrast, adjusts behavior towards the optimum for a given situation. Thus, in one-shot anonymous interactions where selfishness is optimal, intuitive responses tend to be more cooperative than deliberative responses. We test this “Social Heuristics Hypothesis” by aggregating across every cooperation experiment using time pressure we conducted over a two-year period (15 studies and 6,910 decisions), as well as performing a novel time pressure experiment. Doing so demonstrates a positive average effect of time pressure on cooperation. We also find substantial variation in this effect, and show that this variation is partly explained by previous experience with one-shot lab experiments.

Note: An older version of this paper was titled "Intuitive cooperation and the Social Heuristics Hypothesis: Evidence from 15 time constraint studies"

Keywords: public goods game, dual process, economic games, prisoner's dilemma

JEL Classification: C70, C79, C90, C91, C92, D64, D70, D71, H41

Suggested Citation

Rand, David G. and Peysakhovich, Alexander and Kraft-Todd, Gordon T. and Newman, George and Wurzbacher, Owen and Nowak, Martin and Greene, Joshua D., Social Heuristics Shape Intuitive Cooperation (April 3, 2014). Nature Communications (2014) 5:3677. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2222683 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2222683

David G. Rand (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) ( email )

77 Massachusetts Avenue
50 Memorial Drive
Cambridge, MA 02139-4307
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.daverand.org

Alexander Peysakhovich

Yale University - Human Cooperation Lab ( email )

New Haven, CT
United States

Gordon T. Kraft-Todd

Yale University, Faculty of Arts & Sciences, Department of Psychology ( email )

P.O. Box 208205
New Haven, CT 06520-8205
United States

George Newman

Yale School of Management ( email )

135 Prospect Street
P.O. Box 208200
New Haven, CT 06520-8200
United States

Owen Wurzbacher

Harvard College ( email )

Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Martin Nowak

Harvard University ( email )

1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Joshua D. Greene

Harvard University - Department of Psychology ( email )

33 Kirkland St.
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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