Monday, August 15, 2011

Property Rights and Cooperation Among Greedy People

Young children's understanding of violations of property rights
Federico Rossano, Hannes Rakoczy & Michael Tomasello, Cognition, forthcoming

Abstract: The present work investigated young children's normative understanding of property rights using a novel methodology. Two- and 3-year-old children participated in situations in which an actor (1) took possession of an object for himself, and (2) attempted to throw it away. What varied was who owned the objectt: the actor himself, the child subject, or a third party. We found that while both 2- and 3-year-old children protested frequently when their own object was involved, only 3-year-old children protested more when a third party's object was involved than when the actor was acting on his own object. This suggests that at the latest around 3 years of age young children begin to understand the normative dimensions of property rights.

Emergence of social cohesion in a model society of greedy, mobile individuals
Carlos Roca & Dirk Helbing, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 12 July 2011, Pages 11370-11374

Abstract: Human wellbeing in modern societies relies on social cohesion, which can be characterized by high levels of cooperation and a large number of social ties. Both features, however, are frequently challenged by individual self-interest. In fact, the stability of social and economic systems can suddenly break down as the recent financial crisis and outbreaks of civil wars illustrate. To understand the conditions for the emergence and robustness of social cohesion, we simulate the creation of public goods among mobile agents, assuming that behavioral changes are determined by individual satisfaction. Specifically, we study a generalized win-stay-lose-shift learning model, which is only based on previous experience and rules out greenbeard effects that would allow individuals to guess future gains. The most noteworthy aspect of this model is that it promotes cooperation in social dilemma situations despite very low information requirements and without assuming imitation, a shadow of the future, reputation effects, signaling, or punishment. We find that moderate greediness favors social cohesion by a coevolution between cooperation and spatial organization, additionally showing that those cooperation-enforcing levels of greediness can be evolutionarily selected. However, a maladaptive trend of increasing greediness, although enhancing individuals' returns in the beginning, eventually causes cooperation and social relationships to fall apart. Our model is, therefore, expected to shed light on the long-standing problem of the emergence and stability of cooperative behavior.

(nod to Kevin Lewis)

1 comment:

Tom said...

Can we agree that using pejorative terms like "greedy" in the title (and abstract) of a supposedly scholarly work is a signal that the authors are bringing some baggage to the discussion? It's borderline amusing that they want to introduce "moderate greediness" into the model. Merriam-Webster defines greed as "excessive desire for more of something than is needed." So... moderately excessive?

Green beard effects are excluded? Human beings, unlike naked mole rats, can have very subtle green beards. I recognize politeness, a desire to mind own business, and not whining as alleles I want to encourage. Furthermore, humans are capable of very long range self interest -- extending onto the fifth generation, even. Trying to model such complex behaviors is a serious challenge. It is beyond the grasp of people who talk about greed.