Thursday, September 20, 2012

Pro-social Behavior in the NYC Metro.

Yesterday, around midnight. Raul, Neelan and me in the metro: back from University to our apartment in Brooklyn. While waiting for the train Neelan gets a smile on his face and says "I am very pro-social now". Raul and I look behind us, see what's in the picture below, and crack up.

Why? Neelan and I are writing a paper together that deals, among others, with the behavior of people when they are under scrutiny. On this topic there is a well-known paper by Kevin Haley and Daniel Fessler (published in 2005 in "Evolution and Human Behavior") that shows that even small hints of monitoring can make people more pro-social. They do so by placing a set of eyes on computer screens while people play lab experiments. The abstract:
Models indicate that opportunities for reputation formation can play an important role in sustaining cooperation and prosocial behavior. Results from experimental economic games support this conclusion, as manipulating reputational opportunities affects prosocial behavior. Noting that some prosocial behavior remains even in anonymous noniterated games, some investigators argue that humans possess a propensity for prosociality independent of reputation management. However, decision-making processes often employ both explicit propositional knowledge and intuitive or affective judgments elicited by tacit cues. Manipulating game parameters alters explicit information employed in overt strategizing but leaves intact cues that may affect intuitive judgments relevant to reputation formation. To explore how subtle cues of observability impact prosocial behavior, we conducted five dictator games, manipulating both auditory cues of the presence of others (via the use of sound-deadening earmuffs) and visual cues (via the presentation of stylized eyespots). Although earmuffs appeared to reduce generosity, this effect was not significant. However, as predicted, eyespots substantially increased generosity, despite no differences in actual anonymity; when using a computer displaying eyespots, almost twice as many participants gave money to their partners compared with the controls. Investigations of prosocial behavior must consider both overt information about game parameters and subtle cues influencing intuitive judgments. 
 Link to the complete paper here.

Maybe a bit nerdy? :)

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