Cooperation. An Experimental Analysis by Gerald Marwell

By Gerald Marwell

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T h e mean was 96%. Response rates were typically at or near the maximum—from 9 to 10 cooperative responses per minute. No control group was run in which pairs worked under equity baseline conditions over long periods of time. T h e replicability of the high rates of cooperation in the baseline segments despite intervening conditions that could disrupt cooperation suggests that preference for the higher-paying task is not affected by time. Most departures from cooperation in baseline conditions occurred early in the first baseline segment—when subjects explored the alternatives.

Subjects were instructed first in the operation of the cooperative task. T h e experimenter read instructions over an intercom which led subjects through the steps required to make a cooperative response. T o begin this response either subject could pull his plunger first, thus illuminating the white response light on the other's panel for 3 seconds. 5-second period after the response light went out. 1 second. 5 second after the response light went off, no counter advance occurred. T h e n the next pull by either subject reinitiated the other's response light for 3 seconds.

Since our primary concern is the extent to which a condition disrupts cooperation, the simplest measure with which conditions can be compared is the proportion of pairs which are cooperating at the conclusion of the potentially disruptive condition. A pair is categorized as cooperative if the percentage of cooperative responses during the final 30 minutes under the disruptive condition is at least 80% that during the baseline condition. A 20% reduction in cooperation for a 30-minute period constitutes a statistically significant change in percentage, given at least a moderate overall rate of response.

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