We Have it Backwards: Cooperation, Existential Anxiety and Distributive Justice

23 Pages Posted: 14 May 2016 Last revised: 19 Oct 2016

Date Written: May 10, 2016


We often have the link between cooperation and resources backwards: frequently we adopt a resource to cement cooperation rather than cooperating to obtain a resource. This paper suggests this reversal will happen when people have to make decisions under a condition of outcome space ignorance I have termed “existential anxiety (EA).” The resources sought under EA will be those that build cooperation even if they do not meet basic needs as well as those that are easier to obtain. EA can force people to form alliances and generally behave in ways that can seem quite irrational. Sometimes that is a good thing, but more often it is not. One way to force people into EA is to disrupt the behavior they have chunked into scripts. So, there is a (potentially measureable) way to determine a policy’s Script Incidence (SI) in order to prevent or promote that behavior. When we promote policies where the SI tends to fall principally on one group of people, we can be sure that we will eventually push them into EA. The backlash will be significant if those promulgating the policies seem never to have any SI at all.

Keywords: cooperation, decision theory, prisoner's dilemma, distributive justice

JEL Classification: A10, C79, D81, D89, H49, I32, O20

Suggested Citation

Corrado, Gail A., We Have it Backwards: Cooperation, Existential Anxiety and Distributive Justice (May 10, 2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2779719 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2779719

Gail A. Corrado (Contact Author)

UNC-CH ( email )

102 Ridge Road
Chapel Hill, NC NC 27514
United States
919 962-0682 (Phone)

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics