Letter

Wise deliberation sustains cooperation

  • Nature Human Behaviour 1, Article number: 0061 (2017)
  • doi:10.1038/s41562-017-0061
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Abstract

Humans are intuitively cooperative1. Humans are also capable of deliberation, which includes social comparison2, self-reflection3 and mental simulation of the future4. Does deliberation undermine or sustain cooperation? Some studies suggest that deliberation is positively associated with cooperation5, whereas other work indicates that deliberation (vis-à-vis intuition) impairs cooperation in social dilemmas6,7. Do some aspects of reasoning qualify whether deliberation sustains cooperation or impairs it? Here, we propose that wise reasoning8,​9,​10—that is, taking a bigger-picture perspective of the situation, including sensitivity to temporal and social interdependence between events—helps to integrate self-protective and cooperative goals, thereby sustaining cooperation when deliberating. Study 1 demonstrated that individual differences in wise reasoning about personal conflicts moderated the impact of naturalistic and experimentally manipulated deliberation time on cooperation. Studies 2 and 3 manipulated an observer perspective, the key aspect of wise reasoning, which eliminated the negative effect of deliberation time on cooperation. Under these circumstances, participants reported being guided by interdependent goals when making their decisions; thus, in these conditions, deliberation sustained cooperation. Combining scholarship on wisdom and behavioural economics, the present insights qualify the relationship between deliberation and prosociality, and highlight conditions under which wisdom promotes prosociality.

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Author information

Author notes

    • Igor Grossmann
    •  & Justin P. Brienza

    These authors contributed equally to this work.

Affiliations

  1. Department of Psychology, University of Waterloo, 200 University Avenue West, Waterloo, Ontario N2L 3G1, Canada

    • Igor Grossmann
    • , Justin P. Brienza
    •  & D. Ramona Bobocel

Authors

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Contributions

I.G. provided the initial idea. All authors contributed to the design. J.P.B. collected the data. I.G. and J.P.B. carried out data analysis. All authors contributed to the conceptual analysis of the results. I.G. drafted the manuscript. All authors approved the final manuscript for submission.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Igor Grossmann or Justin P. Brienza.

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