Experience with anonymous interactions reduces intuitive cooperation

William H.B. McAuliffe, Daniel E. Forster, Eric J. Pedersen, Michael E. McCullough

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

11 Scopus citations


The Social Heuristics Hypothesis claims that cooperation is intuitive because it is positively reinforced in everyday life, where behaviour typically has reputational consequences 1,2 . Consequently, participants will cooperate in anonymous laboratory settings unless they either reflect on the one-shot nature of the interaction or learn through experience with such settings that cooperation does not promote self-interest. Experiments reveal that cognitive-processing manipulations (which increase reliance on either intuition or deliberation) indeed affect cooperation 3 , but may also introduce confounds 4,5 . Here, we elide the interpretation issues created by between-subjects designs in showing that people are less cooperative over time in laboratory paradigms in which cooperation cannot promote self-interest, but are just as cooperative over time in paradigms that have the potential to promote self-interest. Contrary to previous findings 6,7 , we find that cooperation is equally intuitive for men and women: unilateral giving did not differ across gender at the first study session, and decreased equally for both genders across sessions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)909-914
Number of pages6
JournalNature human behaviour
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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