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About usFaculty of Behavioural and Social SciencesSociology

Colloquium: The effect of social networks on other-regarding preferences and the evolution of cooperation - prof. dr. Heiko Rauhut (University of Zürich)

When:Tu 24-09-2019 11:30 - 12:30
Where:H.0431 (Heymans Building)

Abstract: Scholars from diverse disciplines try to identify the mechanisms that explain the large extent of cooperation in human societies. Recent evidence suggests that social networks play an essential role in the evolution of cooperation, however, the role of social influence on other-regarding preferences has often been overlooked. Unfortunately, neither meaningful social contacts nor preferences can be exogenously manipulated, which makes causal inference less attainable than through controlled and randomized experiments. Nevertheless, deep social contacts such as friendships, changing preferences and social influence are important features of societies and play an essential role in human large-scale cooperation. Our approach allows us to study the mechanisms of cooperation in realworld environments, which have before only been studied using computer simulations or artificial laboratory experiments. Incentivized, fine-grained and repeated measurements of other-regarding preferences are combined with the dynamic friendship networks of 57 school classes (N=1258). We apply matching methods using substantial information about individuals, their friends, peers, and teachers to construct suitable comparison groups that allow studying the causal effect social environments have on individual preferences. The results suggest that social environments substantially influence individual preferences and thereby contribute to the development of homogenous clusters. Furthermore, we find that cooperative individuals systematically try to avoid social contacts with uncooperative ones, whereas uncooperative individuals seek new relations towards cooperators. We conclude that norm transmission and conformity play an import role for the development of other-regarding preferences, and paired with a weak partner-selection process contribute substantially to the evolution of cooperation by creating homogeneous clusters.

Bio: Heiko Rauhut is Full Professor of Social Theory and Quantitative Methods at the Institute of Sociology. He has recently been awarded an SNSF Starting Grant (equivalent to ERC Starting Grant). Rauhut is also private lecturer (“Privatdozent”) at the ETH Zurich. Previously, Rauhut has been appointed as SNSF Professor at the Institute of Sociology. Before, Rauhut has worked at the Chair of Sociology, in particular of modeling and simulation at the ETH Zurich, where he did his “Habilitation”. He has done his doctorate at the Institute of Sociology at the University of Leipzig and his Master at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

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