The Collective Benefits of Feeling Good and Letting Go: Positive Emotion and (Dis)Inhibition Interact to Predict Cooperative Behavior

PLoS ONE, 10(1), e0117426. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0117426

16 Pages Posted: 28 Apr 2014 Last revised: 15 Mar 2015

See all articles by David G. Rand

David G. Rand

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Gordon T. Kraft-Todd

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

June Gruber

University of Colorado at Boulder - Department of Psychology

Date Written: November 26, 2014

Abstract

Cooperation is central to human existence, forming the bedrock of everyday social relationships and larger societal structures. Thus, understanding the psychological underpinnings of cooperation is of both scientific and practical importance. Recent work using a dual-process framework suggests that intuitive processing can promote cooperation while deliberative processing can undermine it. Here we add to this line of research by more specifically identifying deliberative and intuitive processes that affect cooperation. To do so, we applied automated text analysis using the Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC) software to investigate the association between behavior in one-shot anonymous economic cooperation games and the presence inhibition (a deliberative process) and positive emotion (an intuitive process) in free-response narratives written after (Study 1, N=4,218) or during (Study 2, N=236) the decision-making process. Consistent with previous results, across both studies inhibition predicted reduced cooperation while positive emotion predicted increased cooperation (even when controlling for negative emotion). Importantly, there was a significant interaction between positive emotion and inhibition, such that the most cooperative individuals had high positive emotion and low inhibition. This suggests that inhibition (i.e., reflective or deliberative processing) may undermine cooperative behavior by suppressing the prosocial effects of positive emotion.

Keywords: cooperation, altruism, emotion, inhibition, dual process, deliberation

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

Suggested Citation

Rand, David G. and Kraft-Todd, Gordon T. and Gruber, June, The Collective Benefits of Feeling Good and Letting Go: Positive Emotion and (Dis)Inhibition Interact to Predict Cooperative Behavior (November 26, 2014). PLoS ONE, 10(1), e0117426. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0117426. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2429787 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2429787

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

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

June Gruber

University of Colorado at Boulder - Department of Psychology ( email )

Boulder, 80309
United States

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