Nav: Home

Want people to work together? Familiarity, ability to pick partners could be key

January 16, 2018

COLUMBUS, Ohio - The key to getting people to work together effectively could be giving them the flexibility to choose their collaborators and the comfort of working with established contacts, new research suggests.

For starters, it's important to recognize that cooperation between humans makes no sense, said David Melamed, an assistant professor of sociology at The Ohio State University and lead author of the study, which appears in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"From an evolutionary perspective, cooperation shouldn't exist between people - you always do better by not cooperating because then people can't rip you off or take advantage of you," Melamed said.

"Especially in a one-time interaction, it's essentially paying a cost for someone else to benefit, and researchers have been working for a long time to understand why people evolved to work together."

In this study, Melamed and his co-authors aimed to uncover what conditions led people to collaborate most willingly.

To answer their questions, they found participants through the Amazon Mechanical Turk website - a service that allows researchers and others to hire or recruit people from around the world for a variety of purposes. For this study, all participants were from the United States.

Those who agreed to participate played online games in which each player started out with 1,000 monetary units that translated to $1 in real money that they could pocket. If one player agreed to pay another player 50 monetary units, that second person would actually acquire 100 units.

"So, if you essentially agreed to give up five cents, someone else gained 10 cents," Melamed said.

Each of the 16-round games examined in the study included about 25 participants, some of whom participated in multiple games with different scenarios. In all, 810 people participated in the research.

Some of the games generated random networks, where certain people could interact. Others included clustered networks, in which a small group had multiple connections - an arrangement that was designed to mimic real life, where humans often run in packs socially and at work.

And the networks were either static or dynamic. In static networks, a player could interact only with the assigned partners for the duration. In the dynamic networks, participants could cut ties with another player and form new connections.

Furthermore, some of the games included reputation information. Participants were labeled based on their history of willingness to share money. The idea was to test whether those known to collaborate were favored by other players based on reputation - a factor shown in previous research to play a significant role in whether a person is likely to partner with another.

Melamed and his research partners were surprised to find that reputation played no role in collaboration in this study. The findings might have departed from prior studies because of the difference in size and study design, he said, explaining that much of the previous work in this area has been conducted in groups of 100 or fewer and mostly involved student subjects. The Turk network used for the new study has been shown to be representative of the U.S. population in terms of age, race and other factors, Melamed said, and introduced players who had no previous connections.

Collaboration rates overall were high - and highest when the participants were operating in clusters and had the ability to drop a partner in favor of another.

"What really seems to matter is the ability to alter the structure of a network," Melamed said. "And the pattern of relationships also made a difference. Those in a known cluster with multiple connections collaborated more, which seems intuitive if you think about how we interact in the real world."

The findings from this study could have important implications in a variety of settings, including the workplace and the battlefield, Melamed said.

"Applying what we learned could help encourage cooperation," he said.

The U.S. Army, which supported the study, could use this type of information to better develop strong, cooperative teams in the field, Melamed said, adding that the armed forces could also use the science to seek ways to undermine enemy forces.
-end-
Other researchers involved in the study were Ashley Harrell of the University of Michigan and Brent Simpson of the University of South Carolina.

CONTACT: David Melamed, 614-292-9516; Melamed.9@osu.edu

Written by Misti Crane, 614-292-5220; Crane.11@osu.edu

Ohio State University

Related Cooperation Articles:

Betrayal or cooperation? Analytical investigation of behavior drivers
At the macroscopic level, there are numerous examples of people cooperating to form groupings.
How does cooperation evolve?
In nature, organisms often support each other in order to gain an advantage.
Simulating cooperation in local communities
In new research published in EPJ B, a new simulation-based approach is introduced which could help to reduce the proportion of people who misuse welfare payoffs, through a cost-effective system which rewards individuals who use them responsibly.
Cooperation can be contagious particularly when people see the benefit for others
Seeing someone do something good for someone else motivates witnesses to perform their own helpful acts, an insight that could help drive cooperative behavior in communities navigating through the health crisis.
Cultivating cooperation through kinship
Extensive cooperation among biologically unrelated individuals is uniquely human. It would be surprising if this uniqueness were not related to other uniquely human characteristics, yet current theories of human cooperation tend to ignore the human aspects of human behavior.
As farming developed, so did cooperation -- and violence
The growth of agriculture led to unprecedented cooperation in human societies, a team of researchers, has found, but it also led to a spike in violence, an insight that offers lessons for the present.
Cooperation after eye contact: Gender matters
Researchers from the UB published an article in the journal Scientific Reports which analyses, through the prisoner's dilemma game, the willingness of people to cooperate when in pairs.
How employees' rankings disrupt cooperation and how managers can restore it
First prize is a Cadillac Eldorado, second prize a set of steak knives, third prize you're fired».
Sex for cooperation
To understand the origins of human sociality studying the social dynamics of our closest relatives, chimpanzees and bonobos, is important.
Migration can promote or inhibit cooperation between individuals
A new mathematical analysis suggests that migration can generate patterns in the spatial distribution of individuals that promote cooperation and allow populations to thrive, in spite of the threat of exploitation.
More Cooperation News and Cooperation Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Warped Reality
False information on the internet makes it harder and harder to know what's true, and the consequences have been devastating. This hour, TED speakers explore ideas around technology and deception. Guests include law professor Danielle Citron, journalist Andrew Marantz, and computer scientist Joy Buolamwini.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#576 Science Communication in Creative Places
When you think of science communication, you might think of TED talks or museum talks or video talks, or... people giving lectures. It's a lot of people talking. But there's more to sci comm than that. This week host Bethany Brookshire talks to three people who have looked at science communication in places you might not expect it. We'll speak with Mauna Dasari, a graduate student at Notre Dame, about making mammals into a March Madness match. We'll talk with Sarah Garner, director of the Pathologists Assistant Program at Tulane University School of Medicine, who takes pathology instruction out of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

How to Win Friends and Influence Baboons
Baboon troops. We all know they're hierarchical. There's the big brutish alpha male who rules with a hairy iron fist, and then there's everybody else. Which is what Meg Crofoot thought too, before she used GPS collars to track the movements of a troop of baboons for a whole month. What she and her team learned from this data gave them a whole new understanding of baboon troop dynamics, and, moment to moment, who really has the power.  This episode was reported and produced by Annie McEwen. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.