Sustainable cooperation in small groups: dynamic interaction and the emergence of norms

Titlestad, K. N., 2019, [Groningen]: University of Groningen. 199 p.

Research output: ThesisThesis fully internal (DIV)Academic

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In three empirical experiments, this dissertation studies how cooperative norms emerge over time in small, interactive groups. It also explores the impact that different pathways to social identification have on cooperation. We show that both social identification pathways (bottom-up or top-down) can lead to similarly high or low levels of cooperation – albeit through different trajectories. We also find that groups tend to form cooperative norms based on similar decision making rules, regardless of the social identity pathway. In other words, decision-making behavior regarding cooperation is an emergent property of the group. While cooperation is high in the first two studies, in the third study we find that changing the societal context, as well as the monetary outcome of the experiment, leads to a sizable reduction in cooperation. Taken together, the results of the decision rules for how much to cooperate as well as the content of the messages participants send their groups, suggests that static factors – such as macro-level variables that can explain differences between societies – may predict initial contributions to the Public Good. However, dynamic factors – which can only come into play through interaction and communication over time – subsequently direct how cooperation further evolves. Crucial to explaining this variability in cooperation among groups, it seems, is the nature of social interaction – specifically, whether groups coordinate activity at the level of “us”, while also promoting group solidarity. Social interaction among group members appears to be the foundation for the emergence of social norms that maximize cooperation.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
Award date19-Sep-2019
Place of Publication[Groningen]
Print ISBNs978-94-034-1860-5
Electronic ISBNs978-94-034-1859-9
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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