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Human social preferences cluster and spread in the field

Authors
  • Ehlert, Alexander1, 1
  • Kindschi, Martin1, 1
  • Algesheimer, René1, 1
  • Rauhut, Heiko1, 1
  • 1 University of Zurich, Switzerland , (Switzerland)
Type
Published Article
Journal
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Publisher
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Publication Date
Sep 01, 2020
Volume
117
Issue
37
Pages
22787–22792
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2000824117
PMID: 32873647
PMCID: PMC7502742
Source
PubMed Central
Keywords
Disciplines
  • Biological Sciences
  • Evolution
License
Unknown

Abstract

While it is undeniable that the ability of humans to cooperate in large-scale societies is unique in animal life, it remains open how such a degree of prosociality is possible despite the risks of exploitation. Recent evidence suggests that social networks play a crucial role in the development of prosociality and large-scale cooperation by allowing cooperators to cluster; however, it is not well understood if and how this also applies to real-world social networks in the field. We study intrinsic social preferences alongside emerging friendship patterns in 57 freshly formed school classes ( n = 1,217), using incentivized measures. We demonstrate the existence of cooperative clusters in society, examine their emergence, and expand the evidence from controlled experiments to real-world social networks. Our results suggest that being embedded in cooperative environments substantially enhances the social preferences of individuals, thus contributing to the formation of cooperative clusters. Partner choice, in contrast, only marginally contributes to their emergence. We conclude that cooperative preferences are contagious; social and cultural learning plays an important role in the development and evolution of cooperation.

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