Annotated bibliography on altruism

Bornstein, Gary, Uri Gneezy and Rosmarie Nagel. “The effect of intergroup competition on group coordination: an experimental study.” Games and Economic Behavior 41 (2002): 1-25.

It is a common fact that groups are not in a position to coordinate on the socially optimal outcomes as proven by Van Hyuck’s experiment. Research indicates that the best group is one where the members are better coordinates with each other than the individuals from competing groups. The objective of this study was to prove whether competition among groups leads to enhanced coordination.

In this research, the method used was the use of the intergroup game where individual players had to choose 7 (the most efficient) or 1 (the least efficient). On the basis that intergroup competition integrates the existence of distinct groups, the authors involved two groups in the control condition. The players were made aware about the minimum chosen for each group. It included a total of 210 participants from the University and who did not have prior experience with this task. They were prompted to follow the instructions as provided by the experimenter and were then asked to play 10 rounds of the game. The group which won the competition had the higher minimum and received payment based on the initial matrix. On the other hand, members from the losing team did not receive any compensation. Results showed that the mean effort level for individual periods in this assessment was 4.5 (Bornstein, Gneezy and Nagel 10).

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The paper established that the winning group, which has better coordination, enjoys the full reward. It is more convenient compared with the single-group control treatments. Additionally, Bornstein, Gneezy, and Nagel discovered that there is a milder group in the same category of intergroup competition whose members from individual groups benefit from internal coordination. Even though coordination may be less effidcient compared to the winner take all game, it is certainly more convenient than in a situation where a control condition is missing.

Fehr, Errist and Simon Gatcher. “Altruistic punishment in humans.” Nature 415 (2002): 137-140.

During the entire period of evolution, essential human activities such as hunting and sharing of meat was beneficial including the ones who did not contribute toward providing the good. Consequently, there has been the question of the reason people take part in such costly activities including warfare and game hunting. Several theories have been discussed which try to explain the history of human cooperation but none explains the reason cooperation is frequent among people who have no genetic relations. The objective of this study was to determine whether humans are involved in altruistic punishment and how this affects their potential to achieve and sustain cooperation.

There is a possibility that punishment may benefit the group members from future on the condition that they respond by increasing investments which makes it altruistic. In the research, the authors determined that altruistic punishments take place often. This characteristic was observed from an experiment that involved 240 participants subjected to two treatment conditions including punishment and no punishment. Again, there was a clear pattern of the punishment with 84.3% of the subjects being punished at least once. Notably, punishing the members who were non-cooperative significantly increases the number of subjects invested in the public good. In all the sessions where the punishment conditions were treated as the first treatment, the cooperation level was slightly higher than the condition for punishment (Fehr and Gatcher 138).

In conclusion, altruistic punishment is a key objective which may be used to explain the concept of cooperation. It implies that the individuals punish, although this is expensive for them and it has no actual material benefit. Cooperation is likely to be beneficial on the condition that altruistic punishment is impossible, and it may even break down when ruled out.

Gneezy, Ayelet and Daniel M Fessler. “Conflict, sticks and carrots: war increases prosocial punishments and rewards.” Proc Biol Sci 279.1727 (2012): 219-223.

Gneezy and Fessler contend that human groups which have relatively high levels of cooperation are stronger and enjoy enduring relationships. Through increasing the cost of defection, punishment can significantly cause stabilize cooperation within members of a group (Gneezy and Fessler 220). But punishing the members who are non-cooperative proves to be quite costly. The debate regarding this issue has resulted in three possible categories of solution among them being the fact that intergroup ompetition resulted in the evolution of the group-functional norms. But none of the approached proposed addresses the direct impact of intergroup conflict related to personal behavior.

The research uses economic games to establish the impact of wars where each was played for real stakes. On costly punishments, the authors use the Ultimatum Game where the first member is given money and asked to propose an endowment to the second player who may accept or reject it. measure costly punishment. To determine costly rewards, the authors make use of the Trust game where the first player is awarded an endowment and prompted to determine the portion they should transfer to the second player. The amount is tripled and the second player is again expected to return some endowment. For both games, the decision of the participants was not different between the pre and post-war time. However, in the Ultimatum game, the second player is more likely to reject endowment. In the Trust game, the second player returns a big portion of endowment to the first participant.

Intergroup conflict is a vital aspect in explaining the theories which try to explain the evolution of human cooperation. But each proposes that violent intergroup conflict may influence the persons to enhance their willingness to incur costs on the uncooperative members.

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