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No place to hide: When shame causes proselfs to cooperate

  • DECLERCK, Carolyn H.
  • BOONE, Christophe
  • KIYONARI, Toko
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    Shame is often considered a moral emotion with action tendencies shaped by natural selection to elicit socially beneficial behavior. Yet, unlike guilt or other social emotions, prior experimental studies do not indicate that incidental shame boosts prosocial behavior. Based on the affect as information theory, we hypothesize that incidental feelings of shame increase cooperative behavior, but only for self-interested individuals, and only in situations where shame is relevant with regards to its action tendency of avoiding reputation losses. To test this hypothesis, cooperation levels are compared between a classic prisoner’s dilemma (where “defect” may result from multiple motives) and a sequential prisoner’s dilemma (where “defect” is the result of intentional greediness). The results indicate that, as hypothesized, proself individuals cooperate more following incidental shame, but only in a sequential prisoner’s dilemma. Hence ashamed proselfs become inclined to cooperate when they believe they have no way to hide their greediness, and not necessarily because they want to make up for earlier wrong-doing.

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    Paper provided by University of Antwerp, Faculty of Applied Economics in its series Working Papers with number 2011018.

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    Length: 33 pages
    Date of creation: Nov 2011
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:ant:wpaper:2011018
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    1. Christophe Boone & Carolyn Declerck & Toko Kiyonari, 2010. "Inducing Cooperative Behavior among Proselfs versus Prosocials: The Moderating Role of Incentives and Trust," Journal of Conflict Resolution, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 54(5), pages 799-824, October.
    2. Daniel Nettle & Gilbert Roberts & Melissa Bateson, 2006. "Cues of being watched enhance cooperation in a real-world setting," Natural Field Experiments 00214, The Field Experiments Website.
    3. Gneezy, Uri & Rustichini, Aldo, 2000. "A Fine is a Price," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 29(1), pages 1-17, January.
    4. repec:feb:natura:0059 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Topi Miettinen & Sigrid Suetens, 2008. "Communication and Guilt in a Prisoner's Dilemma," Journal of Conflict Resolution, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 52(6), pages 945-960, December.
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