The following study examined the relationship between the threat of social exclusion and cooperativeness in a group setting for individuals with different social value orientations. Rational behavior predicted by economic theory suggests that individuals will allocate chips based on their self interest to accumulate the most chips possible. In this experiment, I introduce social exclusion as a potential factor that may cause participants to settle for fewer chips in order to ensure the approval of their partner. Because the feedback is independent of the partner’s contributions, the participants should not view social approval as a means to acquire more chips. The important questions are whether the feedback induces more cooperative behavior, what type of feedback produces the most cooperative behavior (rewards, punishments, or both rewards and punishments), and whether people who cooperate more and are more responsive to partner emotional feedback tend to be more prosocial or proself.
In a game inspired by the prisoner’s dilemma, participants were asked to allocate chips between a personal savings and a group fund shared with a partner. To induce the threat of social exclusion (or affirmation of social inclusion) the participants in experimental conditions were given feedback for uncooperative behavior in the form of a happy or angry face. The results of the study suggest that facial feedback influences individuals to be more cooperative without any other rewards or punishments for uncooperative behavior. In addition I found that the type of facial feedback received was unimportant and that prosocial individuals were more cooperative.
Michigan State University
Stivers, Adam W., "Happy or Sad: When People Face the Threat of Social Exclusion" (2009). Psychology Faculty Scholarship. 13.
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