Whether it is barn-raising or crafting a business plan, humans are among the few creatures that are able to work well cooperatively. According to an evolutionary psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, our success at cooperation results from three distinct personality types.
"In any given group of people, youl find three kinds of people: Cooperators, Free Riders, and what we call Reciprocators. Cooperators do the most work and Free Riders do as little as possible, but most of us are Reciprocators. We hold back a bit to determine the chances of success before devoting our full energy to a project," said Robert Kurzban, an assistant professor in Penn’s Department of Psychology. "We found that these traits remained fairly stable among people, and you could reliably predict how a group might perform if you know the percentage of each type of person in that group."
Kurzban and Daniel Houser of George Mason University present their findings this week in the Online Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The researchers used a computer-based experiment to assess the range of cooperative behaviors among people. While they cannot offer a complete explanation of how these traits might have evolved, they point to reciprocity as an important motive in human societal behavior. According to Kurzban, it could also provide a simple lesson on the power of internal communications to managers and group leaders.
Greg Lester | EurekAlert!
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