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The Cognitive Foundations of Cooperation

13 March 2019
2:00 pm
San Francesco Complex - Classroom 2
Why do some individuals cooperate with their fellow human beings while others take advantage of them?
The human drive for cooperation and altruism is one of the most powerful forces shaping our society, but there is an enormous variance in individual behavior. The reasons for this variance are still undiscovered despite the extensive research because the determinants of cooperation and altruism are still unclear. Partially this is also due to the fact that the same observed behavior can be rationalized as originating from different determinants. In particular, whether it is intuitive to behave in a cooperative manner or whether such behaviors are calculated deeds remains an unanswered question, despite the recent consideration it received. We conducted a laboratory experiment with the aim of investigating the cognitive determinants of cooperation while manipulating different behavioral tendencies. Hence, we induce intuitive and deliberative behavior through gradual economic incentives that ensure compliance to disentangle the cognitive determinants of cooperative behavior. To further account for individual heterogeneity, we independently measure attitudes toward related but separate constructs such as altruism and attitude toward strategic uncertainty. Crucially, we find causal evidence that there is not a universal intrinsic tendency toward cooperative behavior despite common determinants. Rather, intuition enhances individual heterogeneous predispositions, while deliberation moderates them towards socially acceptable behavior. That is, subjects with a higher (resp. lower) predisposition towards cooperation became more (resp. less) cooperative under time pressure compared with time delay.
With Carlos Alòs-Ferrer
Michele Garagnani - UZH - Universität Zürich