We appear to be hard-wired for cooperation in the same way Tit for Tat was programmed for success. When research subjects played the iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma while attached to equipment monitoring brain activity, the brains of those who were cooperating with one another lit up like pinball machines. Not only did the cooperators win more total points for cooperation than did the betrayers, they were happier whether they were winning or not. As the neuroscientists discovered, when we cooperate, the neurochemical that gives us pleasure – dopamine – is released. At the same time that the cooperators’ brains were being bathed in the warm glow of dopamine, their impulse inhibition areas were activated, helping them resist the lure of self-seeking.
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
We are hard wired to co-operate
Victoria relates the prisoners' dilemma saga.
Our evolutionary history has created us to be a “band of brothers” – a human family that places the well-being of the tribe on a higher level than anyone’s “personal best.” If family members betray us (and they will) we doom our effort to secure compliance if we fail to retaliate. A sharp slap on the wrist or even expressed disapproval (the powerful shock of shaming) is usually sufficient to bring miscreants back into line. To optimize the benefits to be gained by cooperation among the greatest number of family members, we must be quick to forgive when our retaliatory actions bear fruit.