Human Cooperation and Its Underlying Mechanisms

Part of the Current Topics in Behavioral Neurosciences book series (CTBN, volume 30)


Cooperation is a uniquely human behavior and can be observed across cultures. In order to maintain cooperative behavior in society, people are willing to punish deviant behavior on their own expenses and even without any personal benefits. Cooperation has been object of research in several disciplines. Psychologists, economists, sociologists, biologists, and anthropologists have suggested several motives possibly underlying cooperative behavior. In recent years, there has been substantial progress in understanding neural mechanisms enforcing cooperation. Psychological as well as economic theories were tested for their plausibility using neuroscientific methods. For example, paradigms from behavioral economics were adapted to be tested in the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner. Also, related brain functions were modulated by using transmagnetic brain stimulation (TMS). While cooperative behavior has often been associated with positive emotions, noncooperative behavior was found to be linked to negative emotions. On a neural level, the temporoparietal junction (TPJ), the striatum, and other reward-related brain areas have been shown to be activated by cooperation, whereas noncooperation has mainly been associated with activity in the insula.


Cooperation Second-party punishment Third-party punishment Emotions fMRI TMS Striatum Insula DLPFC OFC TPJ Dictator game Ultimatum game Public goods game Prisoner’s dilemma warm glow 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of PsychologyUniversity of LübeckLübeckGermany

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