Social Environment Shapes the Speed of Cooperation
Scientific Reports, Forthcoming
33 Pages Posted: 16 Jun 2016 Last revised: 17 Jun 2016
Date Written: June 16, 2016
Are cooperative decisions typically made more quickly or slowly than non-cooperative decisions? While this question has attracted considerable attention in recent years, most research has focused on one-shot interactions. Yet it is repeated interactions that characterize most important real-world social interactions. As a result, the effect of the cooperativeness of one’s interaction partners (the “social environment”) on the speed of cooperation has been overlooked. We propose that reciprocal decisions (choices that mirror behavior observed in the social environment), rather than cooperative decisions per se, occur more quickly. We test this hypothesis by examining four independent decision time datasets with a total of 2,088 subjects making 55,968 decisions. We show that reciprocal decisions are consistently faster than non-reciprocal decisions: cooperation is faster than defection in cooperative environments, while defection is faster than cooperation in non-cooperative environments. These differences are further enhanced by subjects’ previous behavior – reciprocal decisions are faster when they are consistent with the subject’s previous choices. Finally, mediation analyses of a fifth dataset suggest that the speed of reciprocal decisions is explained, in part, by feelings of conflict – reciprocal decisions are less conflicted than non-reciprocal decisions, and less decision conflict appear to lead to shorter decision times.
Keywords: Decision time, Social environment, Evolution of cooperation, Reciprocal altruism, Prisoner’s Dilemma
JEL Classification: C7, C91, C70, C72, C79, C90, C92, D03, D63, D64, D69, D70, D79, D83, H41
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation