Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Working Papers in Economics,
University of Bergen, Department of Economics

No 02/16: Cooperating, fast and slow: Testing the social heuristics hypothesis

Eirik Strømland (), Sigve Tjøtta () and Gaute Torsvik ()
Additional contact information
Eirik Strømland: Department of Economics, University of Bergen, Postal: Post Box 7802, 5020 Bergen, Norway
Sigve Tjøtta: Department of Economics, University of Bergen, Postal: Post Box 7802, 5020 Bergen, Norway
Gaute Torsvik: Department of Economics, University of Oslo, Postal: Moltke Moes vei 31, Eilert Sundts Hus, 0317 Oslo, Norway

Abstract: Are humans intuitively cooperative, or do we need to deliberate in order to be generous to others? The Social Heuristics Hypothesis (SHH) proposes that fast instinctive decision making promotes cooperation in social dilemmas. In this paper, we conduct a novel time-pressure experiment to shed light on the cognitive underpinnings of cooperation. Although we find no evidence for a time-pressure effect when considering all subjects, our results, together with a re-analysis of independent data, indicate that a single factor – payoff comprehension – accounts for some studies failure to replicate the finding that fast and intuitive decision making promotes cooperation. Given payoff comprehension, the SHH predicts behavior well. We believe this finding provides a unifying interpretation of the conflicting results in the literature.

Keywords: Cooperation; Intuition; Dual-Process; Public Goods Game

JEL-codes: C72; C91; C92; D03

30 pages, April 25, 2016

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