Bonn, Germany (SPX) Apr 14, 2011
The expectations people have about how others will behave play a large role in determining whether people cooperate with each other or not. And moreover that very first expectation, or impression, is hard to change.
"This is particularly true when the impression is a negative one," says Michael Kurschilgen from the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods in Bonn, summarising the key findings of a study in which he and his colleagues Christoph Engel and Sebastian Kube examined the results of so-called public good games.
One's own expectation thereby becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: those who expect people to act selfishly, actually experience uncooperative behaviour from others more often.
In previous studies, other researchers had successfully put participants in Bonn and London into a social dilemma with such games, which are very popular in experimental economics. Engel, Kube and Kurschilgen used them as a template for their study, which focuses on an aspect that ought to be of interest to social policymakers and town planners too.
"We wanted to find out whether the 'broken windows' theory held true in the lab as well," explained Michael Kurschilgen.
According to this theory, minor details, like broken windows in abandoned buildings or rubbish on the streets, can give rise to desolate conditions like the utter neglect of a district.
"Such signs of neglect give people the impression that social standards do not apply there," says Kurschilgen, explaining the idea behind the theory, which was the motivation behind New York mayor Rudy Giuliani's decision to embark on the zero-tolerance strategy he employed to clean up the city in the 1990s.
In their study, the three MPI scientists tested the theory in a scientific experiment. Using the kind of public good games that are often applied in the field of experimental economics, their aim was to find out the extent to which first impressions determine how people will behave, and the extent to which this can be influenced by selective information.
The games are set up around the classic dilemma of self-interest and socially minded behaviour: each member of a group of four players is given the sum of 20 tokens They can either keep these for themselves or invest them in a community project. Each player receives 0.4 tokens in return for each tokens they invest in the community project.
If all four group members invest their 20 tokens, each one of them receives 32 tokens, in other words 12 tokens more than if they all keep the money for themselves. But if only three of them invest their money in the community, the selfish fourth player gets 44 tokens.
So even the free rider profits from the other players' investment in the community fund. "The public good game thus creates a social dilemma," explains the economist. That's because it would be best for the community if everybody invested in the collective. However, on an individual level the free rider gets the best out of it. They ultimately receive the bonus without having made the investment.
Surprisingly, there are significant differences between Bonn and London in the willingness to invest in the common good. Londoners invested a mere 43 per cent, on average, in the common good. In Bonn, on the other hand, the figure was 82 per cent. "This is probably down to differing expectations of what constitutes normal behaviour," postulates Kurschilgen.
Individuals who assume that the others will act selfishly too are hardly likely to commit altruistic deeds themselves. "From that point of view, Londoners have a more pessimistic view of man than do the participants in Bonn," he concludes in respect of the Brits' reticence. Consequently, whether a person decides to behave cooperatively or not depends strongly on how that person thinks the other players will behave.
In their series of experiments, Engel, Kube and Kurschilgen told their newly recruited players from Bonn the results of the London study. The players in the new round of games evidently reacted very negatively to the information that few of the players in the previous experiments in London had exhibited cooperative behaviour.
Unlike the virtuous people of Bonn from the previous rounds, they showed far fewer pretensions of being good citizens: instead of investing more than 80 per cent in the common good, the participants in these experiments contributed just 51 per cent, on average.
Therefore, the negative information was enough to revise the previously positive image held by the Bonn residents. This model did not really work the other way around - good examples did not make bad teammates into goody two-shoes.
"Our findings demonstrate that the core of the 'broken windows' theory does actually hold true. Faced with a social dilemma, people are guided to a very great extent by their original expectations of what other people will do, but they are also particularly sensitive to negative impressions," says Kurschilgen, summing up the observations.
Given this conclusion, it is clear to him that every cent spent on maintaining residential districts does more than just make the neighbourhood look prettier - it also represents a sound investment against crime.
Share This Article With Planet Earth
All About Human Beings and How We Got To Be Here
Newswriting style as readership factor?
Columbia, Mo. (UPI) Apr 12, 2011
An ongoing decline in newspaper readership among women isn't caused by common news writing styles used in news stories, U.S. researchers say. "We found that women are equally engaged in both 'inverted pyramid' and 'chronological narrative' news stories, so there must be another cause for the decline in female readership," said Miglena Sternadori, former doctoral student at the Missouri ... read more
Japan can pay for rebuild: central bank governor|
Japan orders nuclear firm to compensate families
Japan police find 10 bodies in nuclear zone
Japan mulls 'disaster bonds': report
New India setback for S. Korea's POSCO plant
Store blood cells from Fukushima workers - Lancet letter
Using Carbon Fiber To Reinforce Buildings And Protect From Explosions
Debate over BPA ongoing in Europe
Sizzling, landlocked Madrid gets cool new 'beach'
BP feels fishermen's fury over Gulf oil spill
Want to cut shipping costs? Then go fly a kite
Sushi bars in Paris adjust to life after Fukushima
West Antarctic Warming Triggered By Warmer Sea Surface In Tropical Pacific
Arctic Sea Ice Flights Near Completion
ESA Arctic Ice Campaign Takes Off
Sand Drift Explained
New Citrus Variety Released By Uc Riverside Is Very Sweet, Juicy And Low-Seeded
Brazil issues $1.2 bln in fines on beef companies
Vegetarian magazine defends meat photos
Half EU states negative on GM foods
Increasing activity at Philippine volcano
Hundreds of aftershocks worsen Japan's quake trauma
One year on, Iceland volcano sleeps, but world still quakes
An Electric Yellowstone Makes For Super Visuals
Senegal opens Chinese-built theatre
UN should not take sides in I.Coast: Medvedev
Sierra Leone investigates a mining land acquisition
Gbagbo on pro-Ouattara TV: 'I want us to lay down arms'
Scripps Research Scientists Identify Mechanism Of Long-Term Memory
Negative Image Of People Produces Selfish Actions
Single 'ancestor' language theorized
Are Your Values Right Or Left? The Answer Is More Literal Than You Think
|The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2010 - SpaceDaily. AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by SpaceDaily on any Web page published or hosted by SpaceDaily. Privacy Statement|