Co-evolution of behavior and beliefs in social dilemmas: estimating material, social, cognitive and cultural determinants

Sergey Gavrilets. Understanding and predicting human cooperative behavior and beliefs dynamics remain a major challenge both from the scientific and practical perspectives. Because of the complexity and multiplicity of material, social and cognitive factors involved both empirical and theoretical work tend to focus only on some snippets of the puzzle.

Recently, a mathematical theory has been proposed that integrates material, social, and cognitive aspects of behavior and beliefs dynamics in social dilemmas within heterogeneous groups. Here we validate and apply this theory in different cultural contexts through four long-term behavioral experiments utilizing the Common Pool Resources game and the Collective Risk game.

Our results show that material considerations carry the smallest weight in decision-making, while personal norms tend to be the most important factor. Empirical and normative expectations have intermediate weights in decision-making. Cognitive dissonance, social projection, logic constraints, and cultural background play important roles in both decision-making and beliefs dynamics. At the individual level, we observe differences in the weights people assign to factors involved in the decision-making and beliefs updating process.

We identify different types of prosociality and rule-following associated with cultural differences, various channels for the effects of messaging, and culturally-dependent interactions between sensitivity to messaging and conformity. Our results can put policy and information design on firmer grounds, highlighting the need for interventions tailored to the situation at hand and to individual characteristics. Overall, this work demonstrates the theoretical and practical power of the theory in providing a more comprehensive understanding of human behavior and beliefs.

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