What explains ‘cultural’ variation in cooperation and fairness across human societies?
Demography and ecology may play a crucial role in shaping human behaviour.
We have found that levels of cooperation and fairness vary substantially across populations even of the same cultural group. People from different villages do not share a common cultural norm of cooperation despite their common ethnicity. We have also found that several demographic features of populations, such the size of a population, affect levels of cooperation. For example, people are more selfish in larger populations.
We examined whether people show an inclination to learn cooperative behaviour from each other and found that not all people copy cooperative behaviour to the same extent. Interestingly, people are less likely to copy increasingly cooperative behaviour when this means they have to invest more resources. Again, whether people copy others’ cooperative behaviour seems to depend on a range of factors including their sex, their social network size and how often they visit the nearest town.
Lamba S (2014) Social learning in cooperative dilemmas. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 281 (1787). Download PDF
Lamba S & Mace R (2013) The evolution of fairness: Explaining variation in bargaining behaviour. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 280 (1750). Download PDF
Lamba S & Mace R (2011) Demography and ecology drive variation in cooperation across human populations. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 108: 14426-14430. Download PDF
Self-deceived individuals are better at deceiving others
Confident people may be able to fool others into believing they are more talented than they actually are. We asked University students to rate their own ability and the ability of their peers after the first day of their course. Of those, 32 students (about 45%) were under confident in their ability as compared to their final mark, 29 students (40%) were overconfident and 11 students (15%) were accurate in their assessments of their own ability. Students who predicted higher grades for themselves were predicted to have higher grades by others, irrespective of their actual final score. The same applied to those who were under confident. Our findings suggest that people may not always reward the more accomplished individual but rather the more self-deceived.