Red ant, Ant bridge unity team

Behavioral foundations of cooperation

Cooperation encompasses different forms of collective action ranging from pure coordination problems to interaction where individual self-interest diverges from collective interests. The latter will lead to a “tragedy of the commons” unless psychological motivations are elicited or institutions are created to reverse this trend. The goal of this project is to investigate the psychological foundations of cooperation and to analyse social and political institutions that can improve cooperation in a broad range of domains. We use both laboratory experiments and large-scale surveys as methods of analysis, favouring a cross-cultural approach also encompassing ethnographic work in small-scale societies of the developing world. We apply this body of knowledge to a variety of domains relevant for social cohesion and international cooperation, including cooperation to avert climate change, trust in governments, immigrants’ integration into European societies, perceptions and attitudes towards income inequality This research topic thus addresses the following topics:

  • Which institutional mechanisms can be implemented to incentivize individuals to cooperate with one another?
  • What are the psychological drivers of trust in others and trust in governments?
  • How can discrimination of ethnically diverse people be reduced?
  • Where do people place the boundary between fair and unfair inequality across countries?