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Human cooperation in groups: variation begets variation

Berg, Pieter van den; Molleman, Lucas; Junikka, Jaakko; Puurtinen, Mikael; Weissing, Franz J.


Pieter van den Berg

Lucas Molleman

Jaakko Junikka

Mikael Puurtinen

Franz J. Weissing


Many experiments on human cooperation have revealed that individuals differ systematically in their tendency to cooperate with others. It has also been shown that individuals condition their behaviour on the overall cooperation level of their peers. Yet, little is known about how individuals respond to heterogeneity in cooperativeness in their neighbourhood. Here, we present an experimental study investigating whether and how people respond to heterogeneous behaviour in a public goods game. We find that a large majority of subjects does respond to heterogeneity in their group, but they respond in quite different ways. Most subjects contribute less to the public good when the contributions of their peers are more heterogeneous, but a substantial fraction of individuals consistently contributes more in this case. In addition, we find that individuals that respond positively to heterogeneity have a higher general cooperation tendency. The finding that social responsiveness occurs in different forms and is correlated with cooperativeness may have important implications for the outcome of cooperative interactions.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Nov 4, 2015
Journal Scientific Reports
Electronic ISSN 2045-2322
Publisher Nature Publishing Group
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 5
Article Number 16144
APA6 Citation Berg, P. V. D., Molleman, L., Junikka, J., Puurtinen, M., & Weissing, F. J. (2015). Human cooperation in groups: variation begets variation. Scientific Reports, 5, doi:10.1038/srep16144
Keywords Cooperation, Heterogeneity, Public goods, Behavioural experiment
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Van den Berg et al 2015 Sci Rep.pdf (520 Kb)

Copyright Statement
Copyright information regarding this work can be found at the following address:

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