The Influence of Observation on Cooperative Decision Making

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Rotella, Amanda
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University of Guelph

Reputational incentives, such as observation, influence cooperative decisions. People increase cooperative efforts in response to observation to gain a good reputation. Extending on this, the current research investigated: (1) how people use contextual cues of observation and cooperative signals to assess trustworthiness, and (2) if thinking about observation was sufficient to elicit an observation effect. Additionally, I explored how individual differences in social value orientation influenced responses to observation. For the first objective, predictions were partially supported. Individuals with a prosocial orientation used contextual cues of observation to assess the trustworthiness of targets, while individuals with a self-oriented disposition (proselfs) did not. For the second objective, thoughts of observation increased reciprocity. However, this effect was only present when participants were thinking about a mundane action. When thinking about performing a cooperative action, a moral licensing effect was produced. Lastly, exploratory results suggest that moral licensing is specific to proselfs.

Cooperation, Decision Making, Observation, Trust, Individual Differences, Social Value Orientation, Evolutionary Psychology