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Oxytocin and cooperative behavior in social dilemmas: The moderating role of explicit incentives, social cues and individual differences

  • DECLERCK, Carolyn H.
  • BOONE, Christophe
  • KIYONARI, Toko
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    The neuropeptide Oxytocin (OT), implicated in mammalian social behavior, may affect cooperation through its anxiolytic and affiliative properties. The current study experimentally investigates how OT interacts with three well-studied determinants of cooperative behavior in social dilemmas: extrinsic incentives, social cues, and individual differences. Participants received OT or a placebo following a double blind procedure and played two economic games with randomly determined partners: a Coordination Game (with strong extrinsic incentives to cooperate (CG)) and a Prisoner’s Dilemma (with weak extrinsic incentives (PD)). Social cues were present when participants had the chance to meet their partners in advance, and absent when the interactions were anonymous. A first prediction, that OT enhances cooperation when social cues are present, was confirmed by the data. This appeared to be more pronounced when participants played a CG. In contrast, in a PD we predicted that OT’s influence on cooperation would depend on the subject’s intrinsic willingness to cooperate, as assessed by means of his/her Social Value Orientation and Machiavellianism. The data indicate that for prosocials, OT and social cues appear to be substitutes, with either one being sufficient to overcome fear of betrayal and elicit cooperation. For proselfs, OT and social cues appear to be complements: their concurrence is essential to overcome greediness in situations with weak cooperative incentives. Machiavellists cooperated very little overall, and the combination of OT and social cues, in contrast to proselfs, actually reduced machiavellists’ willingness to cooperate.

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    Paper provided by University of Antwerp, Faculty of Applied Economics in its series Working Papers with number 2008014.

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    Length: 23 pages
    Date of creation: Sep 2008
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:ant:wpaper:2008014
    Contact details of provider: Postal: Prinsstraat 13, B-2000 Antwerpen
    Web page: https://www.uantwerp.be/en/faculties/applied-economic-sciences/

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    1. Gunnthorsdottir, Anna & McCabe, Kevin & Smith, Vernon, 2002. "Using the Machiavellianism instrument to predict trustworthiness in a bargaining game," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 23(1), pages 49-66, February.
    2. Gary Bornstein, 2002. "Intergroup conflict: Individual, group and collective interests," Discussion Paper Series dp297, The Federmann Center for the Study of Rationality, the Hebrew University, Jerusalem.
    3. White, Halbert, 1982. "Maximum Likelihood Estimation of Misspecified Models," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(1), pages 1-25, January.
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