UCL Psychology and Language Sciences


Experimental Psychology Seminar - Cooperation, fast and slow: The Social Heuristics Hypothesis

09 December 2016, 10:00 am–11:00 am

Event Information


26 Bedford Way, WC1H 0AP, Room 313

Speaker: David G. Rand, Associate Professor, Psychology, Economics & Management,Yale University

Cooperation, where people pay costs to benefit others, is central to successful human societies. But why are people willing to incur the individual costs involved in cooperating? One set of explanations involves long-term self-interest: if I cooperate with you today, that may make you (or others who find out about my cooperation) more likely to cooperate with me in the future. But people also cooperate even such future consequences are not enough to make cooperation pay off. I explore such "pure" cooperation from using the dual-process perspective which contrasts cognitive processes that are fast and automatic but inflexible (“intuitive” processes) with those that are effortful and controlled but flexible (“deliberative” processes). I propose the "Social Heuristics Hypothesis" whereby people internalize typically successful behaviors as intuitive heuristics for social interaction. Because most of our important interactions (e.g. those with our co-workers, friends, and family) are long-term rather than anonymous and one-shot, I argue that we intuitively apply a ‘future consequences’ heuristic: our intuitions support strategies which are payoff-maximizing in the presence of future consequences. Deliberation, on the other hand, shifts us towards behavior that is payoff-maximizing in the specific situation at hand. I will present a formal evolutionary game theory model that shows how social heuristics could arise, and a meta-analysis of behavioral data from economic game experiments that supports the key predictions of this account: that inducing subjects to deliberate undermines cooperation in 1-shot games (where non-cooperation is payoff-maximizing), but supports cooperation in games where it can be payoff-maximizing to cooperate. [For details, see http://www.pnas.org/content/113/4/936.abstract regarding the model; and http://pss.sagepub.com/content/early/2016/07/14/0956797616654455.abstract regarding the meta-analysis]

Time: 9 December 2016, 10am

Venue: Room 313, 26 Bedford Way, WC1H 0AP