Reputation improves for those who give without calculation

Reputation improves for those who give without calculation
Credit: Kar Tr – stock.adobe.com

We often help others without weighing the costs and benefits—agreeing immediately to grant favors to friends, or taking on our romantic partners' burdens without question. People even risk their own lives for a stranger, acting without considering the danger.

This presents an evolutionary puzzle, because such uncalculating cooperation seems to ignore self-interest. So why do help others without calculating, even when doing so might come at a great cost?

New experiments conducted by researchers at Yale and Harvard help to demonstrate a new answer to this puzzle. "There are reputational benefits to being uncalculating," said David Rand, senior author of the paper published July 18 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"People who are observed being generous without thought are viewed as more trustworthy than those who want to know the cost."

And participants were less likely to calculate the cost of helping another if they knew they were being observed.

"This shows that wanting to maintain a good reputation can motivate uncalculating cooperation," said Jillian Jordan, first author on the paper.


Explore further

On first instinct, women are more altruistic than men

More information: Uncalculating cooperation is used to signal trustworthiness, PNAS, www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1601280113
Provided by Yale University
Citation: Reputation improves for those who give without calculation (2016, July 19) retrieved 17 September 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2016-07-reputation.html
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Jul 19, 2016
The reputation idea seems to make sense, but would it explain all cases of on-the-spot altruism? What about people who do good, uncalculated things without any third party's knowledge (during or after)? Or simply anonymously?

Maybe there's some kind of self-reputation too?

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