Interventions to increase cooperation in social dilemmas depend on understanding decision makers' motivations for cooperation or defection. We examined these in five real-world social dilemmas: situations where private interests are at odds with collective ones. An online survey (N = 929) asked respondents whether or not they cooperated in each social dilemma and then elicited both open-ended reports of reasons for their choices and endorsements of a provided list of reasons. The dilemmas chosen were ones that permit individual action rather than voting or advocacy: (1) conserving energy, (2) donating blood, (3) getting a flu vaccination, (4) donating to National Public Radio (NPR), and (5) buying green electricity. Self-reported cooperation is weakly but positively correlated across these dilemmas. Cooperation in each dilemma correlates fairly strongly with self-reported altruism and with punitive attitudes toward defectors. Some strong domain-specific behaviors and beliefs also correlate with cooperation. The strongest example is frequency of listening to NPR, which predicts donation. Socio-demographic variables relate only weakly to cooperation. Respondents who selfreport cooperation usually cite social reasons (including reciprocity) for their choice. Defectors often give self-interest reasons but there are also some domain-specific reasons — some report that they are not eligible to donate blood; some cannot buy green electricity because they do not pay their own electric bills. Cooperators generally report that several of the provided reasons match their actual reasons fairly well, but most defectors endorse none or at most one of the provided reasons for defection. In particular, defectors often view cooperation as costly but do not endorse free riding as a reason for defection. We tentatively conclude that cooperation in these settings is based mostly on pro-social norms and defection on a mixture of self-interest and the possibly motivated perception that situational circumstances prevent cooperation in the given situation.
Attari, S., David Krantz, and Elke Weber. "Reasons for cooperation or defection in real-world social dilemmas." Judgment and Decision Making 9, no. 6 (2014): 316-334.
Each author name for a Columbia Business School faculty member is linked to a faculty research page, which lists additional publications by that faculty member.
Each topic is linked to an index of publications on that topic.