, Volume 18, Issue 4, pp 301-315

The survival of a cooperative tradition in the intergroup discontinuity context

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Interindividual-intergroup discontinuity is the tendency, in mixed-motive situations, for groups to interact more competitively, or less cooperatively, than individuals, even though mutual competition yields worse results that mutual cooperation. The present laboratory experiment attempted to assess whether the discontinuity effect could be reduced by the establishment of an intergroup cooperative tradition. Cooperation between intact pairs of groups was induced by placing in each group confederates who successfully convinced their fellow group members of the long-term advantage of trust and cooperation. On subsequent blocks of trails, the confederate was replaced by an actual subject, and then each of the original subjects was replaced so as to simulate generational turnover. By the time all initial members were replaced, their level of cooperation had eroded to the level of groups never experiencing mutual cooperation. The results are discussed in the context of other means of reducing discontinuity.

This research was supported by National Science Foundation grants (BNS-9007414 and SBR-9408760) to John Schopler and Chester A. Insko.