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Guest Speaker - Adam Sparks

Fri., Feb. 14, 2014 1:00 p.m.

Location: Education Building, Room 619

Adam Sparks, PhD Candidate (Applied Social Psychology) at the University of Guelph will be presenting " Cheap social cues can maintain cooperation, but not for long".

Understanding cooperative social behaviour is an important problem for evolutionary biology, and understanding the specific mechanisms underlying human cooperation can help us design more effective social structures. Natural selection favours social behaviour that is sensitive to the expected fitness costs and benefits of available behavioural options. For example, humans are sensitive to costs associated with punishment, favouring cooperative behaviours when selfish behaviour is likely to be punished. Further, the mere presence or absence of an otherwise uninvolved observer influences social decisions, suggesting that social decision-making is sensitive to reputational considerations beyond the immediate context. Recent research has explored whether "cheap" versions of punishment and observation can have similar effects as the real thing. Can strategically-placed images that suggest observation substitute for real observation? We find that generosity in the dictator game increases following a brief exposure to a false cue of observation, but not after a long exposure. Can simply expressing disapproval substitute for costly punishment? We find that the availability of either cheap disapproval or costly punishment can similarly sustain cooperation during early rounds of iterated public goods games, but that only costly punishment sustains long-run cooperation. We discuss the implications of our findings for cooperation research and real-world applications.