March 2009 - Research from the University of Toronto and Northwestern University published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology has found that that "consistent contributors" help to increase efficiency by positively influencing less motivated members of their group, resulting in the acceptance of cooperative behavior as appropriate and beneficial.
Mark Weber, an assistant professor of organizational behaviour at Rotman School of Management and J. Keith Murnighan of the Kellogg School of Management re-analyzed data from two previous experimental economic studies and conducted two additional experiments. Their findings challenged conclusions of many game and rational choice theorists that individuals should be cautious about cooperating in situations where ultimate goals are clear and there are short-term incentives to act selfishly.
Mark Weber explained:
"It was generally accepted that the unconditional 'always-cooperate' strategy was a dumb strategy. The prevailing wisdom in some scholarly circles is that consistent contributors shouldn't exist, that if they do they're 'suckers', and that people will exploit them. But our study found consistently cooperative actors even in places you might least expect them, and when they're there they seem to set a tone and shape how their fellow group members understand situations. Their clear, consistent behavior elicits cooperation, and once you get a few people cooperating with each other, they seem to enjoy cooperating. Groups become more productive, more economically efficient and, anecdotally, people enjoy being a part of them more as a result."
Participants in the current study were given endowments which they they could choose to retain for themselves or contribute to the general benefit of the group. Researchers commonly identified consistent cooperators who were not disadvantaged by the risk they took in sharing. Their groups also cooperated more frequently than those with less "altruistic" members.
Mark Weber concluded:
"When you join a new group you have a strategic choice to make - are you going to be a consistent contributor or risk being in a group without one? Our findings should remind people that they can have a big effect on the groups with which they interact."
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