Posts Tagged ‘psychology’

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.