Cooperate, quick!

Within about one year of each other, two groups of researchers produced contradictory findings about the intuitiveness of cooperative behaviour, both published in Nature.

In 2012, Rand, Greene and Nowak provided exciting evidence that people are more cooperative when they take less time to make a decision about whether to cooperate or not, sugessting that we are predisposed to cooperate. However, a few days ago, a group from Sweden published a paper in which they describe their failure to replicate Rand et al.’s results despite using a sample of 2,500 people from three countries.

Rand et al. come back with a sharp riposte: Tinghög et al.’s study is not a faithful replication of theirs and a meta-analysis of 15 studies investigating the effect of time pressure on cooperation indicates that the effect is real. It would be interesting to see whether this effect is present in a more naturalistic setting, for example, looking at charity donations under pressure.

Rand, Greene & Nowak (2012) Spontaneous giving and calculated greed. Nature 489, 427–430

Tinghög,  Andersson,  Bonn,  Böttiger, Josephson,  Lundgren, Västfjäll, Kirchler, Johannesson (2013) Intuition and cooperation reconsidered. Nature, 498