Archive for the ‘Cooperation theory’ Category

Cooperation and self-interest

August 9, 2013

Self-interest is at the root of cooperation. In a group of free individuals, everyone tries to maximize his/her self-interest. It is a major criterion when chosing a strategy (consciously or uncounsciously) for dealing with others, even if it is not the only one.

The cooperative approach is based on the assumption that for a rational individual to maximize his self-interest, he needs other people. Given this assumption, an individual has two options. One of them is trying to benefit from other people at their expense, often by manipulating them; the other option is cooperating with other people, i.e. acknowledging that they also have their own interests that they try to maximize. When giving other people a hand to reach their goal, one expects that they will do the same in return. At the end of the day, this brings virtuous feedback loops that benefit the whole group. When a group of people is facing other groups in a competition (e.g. in sports or in business), this collective advantage can make it prevail.

When people in a group chose to cooperate, some of them may eventually be better off than the others. Still, the cooperative strategy benefits to the group as a whole and makes it stronger than other groups that would have chosen other strategies.

Is greed really more likely to be ‘paid forward’ than equality or generousity?

December 29, 2012

According to a survey carried out by researchers at Harvard University, greed, not generousity, is more likely to be “paid forward”, contrary to a common belief.

Researchers involved individuals in a series of 5 experiments including money, and on others dealing with work, as described in a Medical News Today article. The result was the same: people having been exposed to greed were more likely to “pay forward” than those exposed to generousity or mere equality.

Still, 2 biases are patent in the described experiments. First, individuals are asked to accomplish a task exactly similar to the greed/equality/generousity they have just experienced ; second, they are asked to accomplish it immediately after they experienced greed/equality/generousity. So the study does not provide any hint on the mid-to long-term impact of greed/equality/generousity, nor on the impact on the general psychology of people, in situations that are not strictly similar.

Cooperation (3): passion and restraint of passions, Charybde and Scylla

March 2, 2008

’CharybdeThe ‘tit-for-tat’ strategy is distinguished by its regularity and its foreseeable nature . These two characteristics reinforce mutual confidence between partners. They also result in a network in which all relationships are not equal. Relationships maintained on a long term basis by repeated cooperative actions are worth potentially more than new relationships. It is a lesson which serial networkers from such social networks as LinkedIn and Viadeo would do well to contemplate. What is the use of having hundreds of connections in our network if nothing occurs after having added them? Such a social network behaves like a brain in which no nerve impulse circulates between the neurons.

Yet, regularity and foreseeability can be seriously thwarted by our passions and impulsive, chaotic reactions.

Who among us has never answered in an abrupt way to a misunderstood e-mail because we were in bad mood at the time, for reasons entirely unrelated with the sender of the message?

This kind of behavior creates misunderstandings which are real false notes in the cooperation.

In the long run, however, the fact that partners are able to overcome these sudden starts reinforces confidence. After all, we are only human.

Cooperation (2): The road to hell is paved with good intentions

February 24, 2008

To paraphrase French writer Gide, bad cooperation is done with beautiful feeling. More exactly, cooperation is not in the realm of sentiment. The example of the software tournaments organized by Axelrod proves it well enough: programmed robots with no emotions can demonstrate cooperative behavior. We will even see in a future paper that passion can thwart cooperation. Nevertheless, man is made of passion as much if not more than of reason. Whether we are delighted or must resign ourselves to it, it is that way. Thus the emotive dimension has necessarily an impact on cooperation. If cooperation is not about intentions, it is about communication of intentions. It is not only a matter of cooperating by acts but also of making known one’s intention to cooperate.

The plot thickens when we consider that cooperating with someone consists in carrying out an action favorable to his/her interests and that, conversely, a hostile behavior must be punished immediately by a hostile behavior of the same intensity. The problem is that everything is a matter of judgment:

  • how can I know the interests of my partner?
  • am I even always aware of my own interests?
  • if I punish a behavior which I consider hostile whereas it was neutral in my partner’s mind (error of judgment), my punishment is likely to be misunderstood
  • does there exist a scale which makes it possible to compare the intensity of the cooperative or unfavorable acts?
  • When we try to function in a cooperative mode with our partners, we should act in such a way that our actions are as understandable as possible. That requires certain competences in psychology and communication, to convey the right message: I acted in such way with you and I explain why to you.

    Cooperation (1) : tit-for-tat

    February 16, 2008

    This paper is the first of a series of three articles originally published in French on cooperation and its issues in everyday life. In the present article, we will reconsider cooperation theory as brilliantly studied by
    Robert Axelrod . Among other achievements, Robert Axelrod is the author of the book The Evolution of Cooperation.

    The book reviews various strategies of interaction between members of a group. Among these strategies, there is the model called “tit-for-tat”. The principle of tit-for-tat cooperation consists in interacting in a cooperative mode with a partner as long as he/she does the same. At the first defection, the model suggests reacting immediately and with the same intensity; then, at the next turn, re-proposing cooperation. In any event, with this model, one never attacks first, one reacts to the first aggression and then starts again in a cooperative mode.

    In his book, Robert Axelrod showed that this strategy was effective and could be essential, even in absence of friendship or love, on the sole strength of interests well understood by both parties. This model brings a long-term value and lasting benefit to human groups.

    Axelrod describes and analyzes tournaments organized in the 1980s between artificial agents (small software), each having its own strategy. Some always cooperated, whatever the other’s behavior. To some extent, even when they were hit, they turned the other cheek; others always cooperated to a certain point where they deserted, “betraying” their partners; still others had a random behavior, etc. In the end, the model known as tit-for-tat proved to be one of the most robust.

    As human beings, we can choose this strategy consciously, without being programmed. But is it so simple? Of course not. Next week, we will start surveying limits which hinder us in our willingness to cooperate.

    Pop’ Coop : making cooperation popular

    March 19, 2006

    Cooperation Commons
    Pop’ Coop will be a new category on this blog for initiatives that aim at making cooperation concepts more popular. To start with, let’s mention Cooperation Commons, a collective blog to discuss how cooperation can help improve things in our messy world. The introductory text of the blog is quite self-explanatory : “Even a small increase in our understanding of the dynamics of cooperation and collective action could have enormous payoffs in regard to international relations and conflict-resolution, the evolution of economic institutions, and the future of democratic governance and civil society.” I like the idea that just increasing a little the level of cooperative awareness among people could lead to high benefits. So what would happen if we were all cooperatively literate ?

    A tutorial on the prisoner dilemna

    February 26, 2006

    prisoner dilemna

    As I was preparing my course about professional uses of wikis, I remembered an excellent tutorial about the prisoner dilemna and its iterated version found on Smartmobs a few months ago.

    It is really worth checking.