Monday, September 24, 2012

Are People More Cooperative When They Make Speedy, Intuitive Choices?

David Rand, Joshua Greene, and Martin Nowak have conducted a series of interesting new experiments that show a correlation between decision speed and selfless behavior.   The experiments involved "the sort of games that economists have used for years. They have to decide how to divvy, steal, invest or monopolize a pot of money, sometimes with the option to reward or punish other players."   The scholars found that individuals behaved more cooperatively/selflessly when they made their choices faster.   The individuals who took to deliberate tended to be a bit more self-interested.   This article in Discover magazine explains a bit more about the studies:

From these results, it’s tempting to conclude that cooperation is somehow “innate” or “hardwired” and that selfishness is somehow imposed upon these predispositions. But Rand points out that our intuitions are also shaped by our daily lives. In so many of our choices, cooperation is the sensible call; if we cheat, we may be punished, lose our reputation, or deny ourselves the future goodwill of those we wrong.  So, when volunteers take part in the experiments, “their automatic first response is to be cooperative,” Rand writes. “It then requires reflection to overcome this cooperative impulse and instead adapt to the unusual situation created in these experiments, in which cooperation is not advantageous.” He found two lines of support for this idea when he surveyed his volunteers: The link between fast-thinking and charity only held for people who said that their daily lives were mostly filled with cooperative interactions; and it only held for those who hadn’t taken part in similar experimental games before.   “This shows how it’s difficult to consider experimental play in isolation from things outside the lab or as completely determined by the game’s monetary payoffs, as a lot of economists do,” says Ann Dreber Almenberg from the Stockholm School of Economics, and one of Rand’s former colleagues. 

I wonder how these findings translate to the realm of organizational life.   Do managers in different business units have a natural tendency to be cooperative if they choose quickly, but perhaps behave a bit more selfishly when they ponder the incentives and payoffs embedded in the firm's compensation and promotion system?  How might we encourage people to focus a bit less on detailed deliberations regarding the direct compensation effects of their actions, so as to hopefully elicit higher levels of cooperation across silos?

1 comment:

Addison Lee said...

A group of highly dedicated and experienced employees form a dynamic team, The manufacture of Gear Cutting Tools, Broaches and Allied Products.

Chain Sprocket Hobs