Cooperation Between Strangers of Unequal Status

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 11:00 AM
Room: Booth 69
Oral Presentation
Zbigniew KARPINSKI , The Team for the Study of Social Structure, Institute of Philosophy and Sociology at the Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw, Poland
Kinga WYSIENSKA , Research Group on Comparative Analysis of Social Inequality, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw, Poland
Recent studies of trust and cooperation in social dilemma situations focus on explaining how social identity processes - triggered by differentiation based on a nominal characteristic – affect cooperative behaviors among strangers. Few studies, however, predict and explain whether and how much cooperation occurs among strangers who vary by characteristics that have status value attached - i.e., characteristics that cause actors possessing one state of a given characteristic to be perceived as more worthy than actors possessing another state of that same characteristic. Even studies that incorporate the status hierarchies’ effects into social dilemma models focus on groups’ effectiveness in producing collective goods, rather than on the simplest trust-game type interactions. This might be defensible insofar as game theory predicts that status differences will have no effect on cooperation among strangers. Our paper takes a different approach: Using status characteristics theory, we predict that in a prisoner’s dilemma (PD) where actors are differentiated by salient status characteristics, the rate of cooperation will vary by the partner’s status relative to that of the focal actor, as well as by whether it is a simultaneous or sequential game. We report experimental results from a one-shot, two-person PD, before which subject pairs worked on tasks intended to manipulate the status of subject and partner. We test the following hypotheses: (1) in a sequential PD, if actors are differentiated by salient status, the rate of cooperation is higher when the low-status actor initiates the game than when the high-status actor does so; (2) regardless of the nature of the game, the cooperation rate among high-status actors is higher than that among low-status actors; and (3) in simultaneous PDs, the level of cooperation among status differentiated actors is at the same level as it would were they both high-status partners.