Human cooperation in groups: variation begets variation

Article English OPEN
Berg, Pieter van den ; Molleman, Lucas ; Junikka, Jaakko ; Puurtinen, Mikael ; Weissing, Franz J. (2015)
  • Publisher: Nature Publishing Group
  • Journal: Scientific Reports (issn: 2045-2322, vol: 5)
  • Related identifiers: pmc: PMC4632011, doi: 10.1038/srep16144
  • Subject: cooperation tendency | heterogeneous behaviour | public goods game | Article | human cooperation
    mesheuropmc: genetic structures

Many experiments on human cooperation have revealed that individuals differ systematically in their tendency to cooperate with others. It has also been shown that individuals condition their behaviour on the overall cooperation level of their peers. Yet, little is known about how individuals respond to heterogeneity in cooperativeness in their neighbourhood. Here, we present an experimental study investigating whether and how people respond to heterogeneous behaviour in a public goods game. We find that a large majority of subjects does respond to heterogeneity in their group, but they respond in quite different ways. Most subjects contribute less to the public good when the contributions of their peers are more heterogeneous, but a substantial fraction of individuals consistently contributes more in this case. In addition, we find that individuals that respond positively to heterogeneity have a higher general cooperation tendency. The finding that social responsiveness occurs in different forms and is correlated with cooperativeness may have important implications for the outcome of cooperative interactions. peerReviewed
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