Individuals cooperate according to their emotional state and their prior experiences

Jul 05, 2012

A study by researchers at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid and Universidad de Zaragoza has determined that when deciding whether to cooperate with others, people do not act thinking in their own reward, as had been previously believed, but rather individuals are more influenced by their own mood at the time and by the number of individuals with whom they have cooperated before.

In addition to previous studies, this research is also based on an experiment carried out by the Institute for Biocomputation and Physics of (BIFI) at the Universidad de Zaragoza, together with the Fundación Ibercivis and Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M), the largest study of its kind to date in real time regarding cooperation in society. It was carried out during this past December, with 1,200 Aragon secondary students participating, who interacted electronically in real time via a social conflict prototype known as the "Prisoner's Dilemma". This game shows that the greatest benefit for who interact is produced when both of them collaborate, but if one collaborates and the other does not, the latter will receive more benefits than the one who cooperates. On occasion, this allows an individual to take advantage of the cooperation of others, but if this tendency is extended, in the end, no one cooperates and as such, nobody obtains rewards.

After analyzing the information, the main conclusion drawn by the researchers is that in a situation where cooperating with others is beneficial, the way the individuals involved are organized into one social structure or another is irrelevant. A first analysis contradicts what many researchers have held based on theoretical studies.

In the experiment, the degree of cooperation in a network in which each subject interacts with four other individuals is compared to a network in which the number of connections vary between 2 and 16, that is, one that is more similar to a social network. What has been observed is that the results in the two networks are identical. "This happens because, contrary to what has been proposed in the majority of studies, do not make their decisions based on the rewards obtained (by them or by their neighbors), but rather based on how many people have recently cooperated with them, as well as on their own mood at the time," the researchers explained.

These results help understand how people make decisions, above all in the context in which one has to decide between collaborating with or taking advantage of others. "Understanding why we do one thing or another can help in designing incentives that induce people to cooperate," the authors of the research pointed out. On the other hand, the fact that the networks are not important has implications, for organizational design, for example. The experiment revealed that people are not going to cooperate more because of being organized in a certain way. In this respect, it can be inferred that we do not have to be concerned with the design of organizational structure, but rather with motivating people individually to cooperate.

Ruling out that network organization influences in the cooperation of people, and having discovered that what is important is reciprocity, that is, cooperating according to cooperation received, will radically change the focus of a significant number of researchers who are developing theories on the emergence of among individuals.

Explore further: Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

More information: Heterogeneous networks do not promote cooperation when humans play a Prisoner's Dilemma, Publication: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Total cooperation among people is not viable

Feb 14, 2011

A situation where a majority of people cooperate never happens. This is due to the fact that a significant number of individuals never cooperate and if they do it is in response to the decision of their neighbors ...

Recommended for you

Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

7 hours ago

A statistical analysis of the gift "fulfillments" at several hundred online wedding gift registries suggests that wedding guests are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to buying an appropriate gift for the ...

Can new understanding avert tragedy?

10 hours ago

As a boy growing up in Syracuse, NY, Sol Hsiang ran an experiment for a school project testing whether plants grow better sprinkled with water vs orange juice. Today, 20 years later, he applies complex statistical ...

Creative activities outside work can improve job performance

22 hours ago

Employees who pursue creative activities outside of work may find that these activities boost their performance on the job, according to a new study by San Francisco State University organizational psychologist Kevin Eschleman ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

A statistical analysis of the gift "fulfillments" at several hundred online wedding gift registries suggests that wedding guests are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to buying an appropriate gift for the ...

Can new understanding avert tragedy?

As a boy growing up in Syracuse, NY, Sol Hsiang ran an experiment for a school project testing whether plants grow better sprinkled with water vs orange juice. Today, 20 years later, he applies complex statistical ...

Roman dig 'transforms understanding' of ancient port

(Phys.org) —Researchers from the universities of Cambridge and Southampton have discovered a new section of the boundary wall of the ancient Roman port of Ostia, proving the city was much larger than previously ...

Crowd-sourcing Britain's Bronze Age

A new joint project by the British Museum and the UCL Institute of Archaeology is seeking online contributions from members of the public to enhance a major British Bronze Age archive and artefact collection.

Hackathon team's GoogolPlex gives Siri extra powers

(Phys.org) —Four freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania have taken Apple's personal assistant Siri to behave as a graduate-level executive assistant which, when asked, is capable of adjusting the temperature ...

Better thermal-imaging lens from waste sulfur

Sulfur left over from refining fossil fuels can be transformed into cheap, lightweight, plastic lenses for infrared devices, including night-vision goggles, a University of Arizona-led international team ...