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Friday, June 3, 2022

Cooperation as a signal of time preferences

Lie-Panis, J., & André, J. (2021, June 23).


Many evolutionary models explain why we cooperate with non kin, but few explain why cooperative behavior and trust vary. Here, we introduce a model of cooperation as a signal of time preferences, which addresses this variability. At equilibrium in our model, (i) future-oriented individuals are more motivated to cooperate, (ii) future-oriented populations have access to a wider range of cooperative opportunities, and (iii) spontaneous and inconspicuous cooperation reveal stronger preference for the future, and therefore inspire more trust. Our theory sheds light on the variability of cooperative behavior and trust. Since affluence tends to align with time preferences, results (i) and (ii) explain why cooperation is often associated with affluence, in surveys and field studies. Time preferences also explain why we trust others based on proxies for impulsivity, and, following result (iii), why uncalculating, subtle and one-shot cooperators are deemed particularly trustworthy. Time preferences provide a powerful and parsimonious explanatory lens, through which we can better understand the variability of trust and cooperation.

From the Discussion Section

Trust depends on revealed time preferences

Result (iii) helps explain why we infer trustworthiness from traits which appear unrelated  to cooperation,  but  happen  to  predict  time  preferences.   We  trust known partners and strangers based on how impulsive we perceive them to be (Peetz & Kammrath, 2013; Righetti & Finkenauer, 2011); impulsivity being associated to both time preferences and cooperativeness in laboratory experiments (Aguilar-Pardo et al., 2013; Burks et al., 2009; Cohen et al., 2014; Martinsson et al., 2014; Myrseth et al., 2015; Restubog et al., 2010).  Other studies show we infer cooperative motivation from a wide variety of proxies for partner self-control, including indicators of their indulgence in harmless sensual pleasures (for a review see  Fitouchi et al.,  2021),  as well as proxies for environmental affluence (Moon et al., 2018; Williams et al., 2016).

Time preferences further offer a parsimonious explanation for why different forms of cooperation inspire more trust than others.  When probability of observation p or cost-benefit ratio r/c are small in our model, helpful behavior reveals large time horizon- and cooperators may be perceived as relatively genuine or disinterested.  We derive two different types of conclusion from this principle.  (Inconspicuous and/or spontaneous cooperation)