Skip to content
2022 Spring

THE PSYCHOLOGY OF HUMAN COOPERATION - PSY325/PSY525 Spring 2022


Course
Joshua Hayden
For information about registration please contact our admissions.

Cooperation is necessary to solve many of our pressing challenges – including depletion of natural resources, managing the COVID-19 pandemic, and effective policy making. By studying the psychological processes underlying cooperation we gain knowledge that can help us create environments and institutions which will be more successful in tackling the societal challenges. The main goal of the course is to introduce students to the psychological processes of human cooperation. This course draws on theories and empirical findings from social, cognitive and developmental psychology, and behavioural economics.

The course will address questions such as:
● What are the evolutionary roots of human cooperation?
● How does prosocial behavior develop in children?
● What are the major strengths and weaknesses of human cooperation?
● Which factors support interpersonal and group cooperation?
● What is the role of communication and leadership in cooperative behaviors?
● How can our knowledge about game theory models improve decisions in public policy?
● How can we develop cooperation within organizations and in civil society?

FULL SYLLABUS: /files/6204760/PSY325-525_Psychology_of_Human_Cooperation-Hayden_S22(2).pdf

Date

Class Agenda

Session 1

February 9th

Topic: Course Overview & a Multidisciplinary Approach Towards Understanding Human Cooperation

Description:

·       Active learning introduction to the course

·       Discussion: class expectations, assignments, effective learning methods.

·       Lecture: A multidisciplinary approach towards understanding human cooperation.

Reading:

·       This syllabus

Assignments/deadlines:

·       Course information form completed

 

Session 2

February 16th

Topic: Origins of Human Cooperation

Description:

      How and why do researchers use qualitative and quantitative methods to study human cooperation? 

      The basic evolutionary mechanisms such as direct reciprocity, reputation, punishment supporting cooperation

      What can we learn from great apes and children about cooperation?

      The basic psychological mechanisms from a developmental and comparative perspective.

Reading: 

·       Introduction chapter from: Tomasello, M. (2009). Why we cooperate, Boston Review Books.

·       Watch: “The Origins of Cooperation” Tomasello online lecture: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rOHxsZBD3Us

 

Assignments/deadlines:

·       Debate #1: Are people basically self-interested?

 

 

PSYCHOLOGICAL MECHANISMS OF COOPERATION

Session 3

February 23rd

Topic: Communication and Social Skills

Description:

      The role of social cognition in cooperation.

      The importance of attention sharing, knowledge sharing and shared experiences for cooperation

      Nonverbal signals that support cooperation (eye contact and pointing).

Reading:

·       Tomasello, M., Carpenter, M., Call, J., Behne, T.& Moll, H. (2005). Understanding and sharing intentions: The origins of cultural cognition. Behavioural and Brain Sciences, 28, 675-735. 

·       Watch Allan Pease’s TED talk on Body Language: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZZZ7k8cMA-4

·       Brooks, D. (2011) The Social Animal “Introduction”

Assignments/deadlines:

·       Reflective synthesis #1

Session 4

March 2nd

Topic: Human Attraction and Interpersonal Closeness

Description:

·       Psychology of intimate relationships

·       Automatic and reflective systems in relationships

·       The role of understanding and how intimacy works

·       Marriage and family as an “institution”

Reading:

·       Brooks, ch. 1 & 2 “Decision Making” and “The Map Field”

·       Listen to Hidden Brain “What Makes Relationships Thrive” https://hiddenbrain.org/podcast/what-makes-relationships-thrive/

·       Aron et. Al. (1997) The Experimental Generation of Interpersonal Closeness: A procedure and preliminary findings. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 23 (4).

Assignments/deadlines:

·       Debate #2 Is love really blind?

 

Session 5

March 9th

Topic: Perspective taking and Empathy

Description:

      Perspective taking- the mental capacity to understand other people and their behavior by ascribing mental states to them

      Empathy as a complex and fading phenomenon, how to develop it.

Reading:

·       Brooks, ch. 3 “Mindsight”

·       Watch Jamil Zaki’s TED talk on Empathy: https://www.ted.com/talks/jamil_zaki_we_re_experiencing_an_empathy_shortage_but_we_can_fix_it_together

      Listen to Hidden Brain “The Empathy Gym”: https://hiddenbrain.org/podcast/you-2-0-the-empathy-gym/

Assignments/deadlines: none

 

Session 6

March 16th

Topic: Altruism as a motivational force

Description:

      Altruism as freely chosen helping behavior at personal cost

      Workplace generosity: reciprocity styles and outcomes

      Charitable giving as an altruistic activity

      Differences in networking with others among reciprocity styles

Reading: 

·       Grant, Give and Take chapters 1 & 2: “Good Returns” and “The Peacock and the Panda”

·       Fehr & Fishbacher (2003) The Nature of Human Altruism, Nature, 425.

·       Tusche et al. (2016) Decoding the Charitable Brain: Empathy, Perspective taking, and Attentional Shifts Differentially Predict Altruistic Giving. The Journal of Neuroscience, 36 (17).

Assignments/deadlines:

·       Reflective synthesis #2

Session 7

March 23rd

Topic: Trust, Social and Interpersonal

Description:

      The dynamics of building trust

      Social trust and sense of obligation to cooperate

      Cultural inhibitors/ facilitators of trust

Reading: 

·       Kanagaretnam, et. Al. (2010) Trust and reciprocity with transparency and repeated interactions. Journal of Business Research, 63.

·       Tomasello, M. (2020). The moral psychology of obligation. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 43, E56.

·       Brooks, ch. 12 “Freedom and Commitment”

Assignments/deadlines:

·       Debate #3: Should trust ever be automatic?

·       Experimental research proposal due

 

Mid-term break

 

Mid-term break March 21-25

Session 8

April 6th

 

Topic: Apologies, forgiveness and reconciliation

Description:

·       The anatomy of effective apologies

·       Watch documentary “As We Forgive” about the Rwandan reconciliation process after genocide

·       The relationship between forgiveness and reconciliation

·       Forgiveness, truth and moral distancing

Reading:

·       Listen to Hidden Brain podcast “The power of apologies” https://hiddenbrain.org/podcast/the-power-of-apologies/

·       Exline, J.J. (2013) The Thorny Issue of Forgiveness: A Psychological Perspective. Pepperdine Dispute Resolution Law Journal, 13.

·       Staub. E (2014) The Challenging Road to Reconciliation in Rwanda: Societal Processes, Interventions and Their Evaluation, Journal of Social and Political Psychology, 2 (1)

·       Grant, ch. 5 “The Power of Powerless Communication”

 

Assignments/deadlines: none

 

 

CHALLENGES TO COOPERATION

Session 9

April 13th

Topic:  Social Dilemmas and Game Theory

Description:

  • Simulations: Students will learn about various strategies in game theory by playing and making decisions in several games.
  • The basic ideas behind the key concepts in game theory, such as equilibrium, rationality, and cooperation.
  • Prisoner’s dilemma and how to escape it
  • The Stag Hunt game and social structure

Readings:

·       Listen to Freakonomics episode 132 “Jane Austen, Game Theorist”: https://freakonomics.com/podcast/jane-austen-game-theorist/

·       Preface chapter and Chapter 1 (pp. 1-14) from: Skyrms, B. (2004). The Stag Hunt and the Evolution of Social Structure, Cambridge University Press.

·       Watch “How to Outsmart the Prisoner’s Dilemma”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=emyi4z-O0ls

Assignments/deadlines: none

 

Session 10

April 20th

Topic: Deception and Free-riding

Description:

      Deception: environmental antecedents and outcomes

      Free-riding and group collaboration

      Addressing and overcoming problematic factors in cooperation

Reading:

·       Gross, et. Al. (2018) Ethical Free Riding: When Honest People Find Dishonest Partners. Psychological Science, 29 (12).

 

Assignments/deadlines:

·       Debate #4: Can deception be a social good?

 

Session 11

April 27th

 

Topic: Tribalism and Group Conflict

Description:

·       Enculturation & Acculturation in group contexts

·       The Robber’s Cave experiment

·       Psychology of implicit bias, group rivalry and hatred

·       Contact theory and cooperative antidotes to group conflict and hatred

Reading: 

·       Read “Life After Hate”, the story of Angela King: https://www.ucf.edu/pegasus/life-after-hate/

·       Watch Jonathan Haidt’s TED talk on the moral roots of liberals and conservatives: https://www.ted.com/talks/jonathan_haidt_the_moral_roots_of_liberals_and_conservatives

·       Watch Robber’s Cave 5 Minute History Lesson: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8PRuxMprSDQ

·       Cikara, et. Al (2011) Us and Them: intergroup failures of empathy. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 20 (3).

Assignments/deadlines:

·       Reflective synthesis #3

 

Session 12

May 4th

Topic: Self-interest and the Common Good

Description:

•   The tragedy of the commons

      Conflict between short-term individual interests and long-term collective interests

      Managing common-pool resources

      Understanding depletion of natural resources through game theory

Reading: 

·       Hardin, G. (1968). The tragedy of the commons. Science 162, 1243–1248.

·       Watch What is the Tragedy of the Commons?: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CxC161GvMPc

·       Spiliakos, (2019) Tragedy of the Commons: What is it and 5 examples: https://online.hbs.edu/blog/post/tragedy-of-the-commons-impact-on-sustainability-issues

Assignments/deadlines:

·       Debate #5: Can we shift people’s mindset to collective interests to solve global problems?

 

Session 13

May 11th

Topic: Practical applications, research presentations

Description:

      Strategies for sustaining cooperation

      Implications for public policy and business

      Implications for private life

      Digital tools to improve cooperation

      Presentations of experimental research findings

Reading:

·       Grant, ch. 8 “The Scrooge Shift”

·       Brooks, ch. 20 and 21: “The Soft Side” and “The Other Education”

Assignments/deadlines:

·       Experimental Research Paper

·       Presentations begin

Session 14

May 18th

Topic: Summary, discussion, questions, presentations

Description:

      Feedback

      Presentations of research

      Mind-mapping what we learned and how can we apply it

      Where to find quality resources to improve our cooperation

Assignments/deadlines:

·       Research presentations

Here is the course outline:

1. Course Overview & a Multidisciplinary Approach Towards Understanding Human Cooperation

Feb 9 6pm .. 8:45pm, In class and Teams

• Active learning introduction to the course • Discussion: class expectations, assignments, effective learning methods. • Lecture: A multidisciplinary approach towards understanding human cooperation.

2. Origins of Human Cooperation

In class and Teams

● How and why do researchers use qualitative and quantitative methods to study human cooperation? ● The basic evolutionary mechanisms such as direct reciprocity, reputation, punishment supporting cooperation ● What can we learn from great apes and children about cooperation? ● The basic psychological mechanisms from a developmental and comparative perspective.

3. Communication and Social Skills

In class and Teams

● The role of social cognition in cooperation. ● The importance of attention sharing, knowledge sharing and shared experiences for cooperation ● Nonverbal signals that support cooperation (eye contact and pointing).

4. Human Attraction and Interpersonal Closeness

In class and Teams

• Psychology of intimate relationships • Automatic and reflective systems in relationships • The role of understanding and how intimacy works • Marriage and family as an “institution”

5. Perspective taking and Empathy

In class and Teams

● Perspective taking- the mental capacity to understand other people and their behavior by ascribing mental states to them ● Empathy as a complex and fading phenomenon, how to develop it.

6. Altruism as a motivational force

In class and Teams

● Altruism as freely chosen helping behavior at personal cost ● Workplace generosity: reciprocity styles and outcomes ● Charitable giving as an altruistic activity ● Differences in networking with others among reciprocity styles

7. Trust, Social and Interpersonal

In class and Teams

● The dynamics of building trust ● Social trust and sense of obligation to cooperate ● Cultural inhibitors/ facilitators of trust

8. Apologies, forgiveness and reconciliation

In class and Teams

• The anatomy of effective apologies • Watch documentary “As We Forgive” about the Rwandan reconciliation process after genocide • The relationship between forgiveness and reconciliation • Forgiveness, truth and moral distancing

9. Social Dilemmas and Game Theory

In class and Teams

• Simulations: Students will learn about various strategies in game theory by playing and making decisions in several games. • The basic ideas behind the key concepts in game theory, such as equilibrium, rationality, and cooperation. • Prisoner’s dilemma and how to escape it • The Stag Hunt game and social structure

10. Deception and Free-riding

In class and Teams

● Deception: environmental antecedents and outcomes ● Free-riding and group collaboration ● Addressing and overcoming problematic factors in cooperation

11. Tribalism and Group Conflict

In class and Teams

• Enculturation & Acculturation in group contexts • The Robber’s Cave experiment • Psychology of implicit bias, group rivalry and hatred • Contact theory and cooperative antidotes to group conflict and hatred

12. Self-interest and the Common Good

In class and Teams

The tragedy of the commons ● Conflict between short-term individual interests and long-term collective interests ● Managing common-pool resources ● Understanding depletion of natural resources through game theory

13. Practical applications, research presentations

In class and Teams

● Strategies for sustaining cooperation ● Implications for public policy and business ● Implications for private life ● Digital tools to improve cooperation ● Presentations of experimental research findings

14. Summary, discussion, questions, presentations

In class and Teams

● Feedback ● Presentations of research ● Mind-mapping what we learned and how can we apply it ● Where to find quality resources to improve our cooperation

Back to top