Communication, Commitment, and Cooperation in Social Dilemmas

  • Kerr N
  • Kaufman-Gilliland C
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Abstract

Intragroup communication promotes cooperation in social dilemmas. Two explanations are plausible: discussion may (1) enhance feelings of group identity or (2) induce commitments to cooperate. Some remedies for social dilemmas (like group communication) may be subclassified as public welfare remedies (of which enhanced group identity is an example) vs cooperation-contingent remedies (of which commitment is an example). The efficacy of a cooperative act for enhancing the collective welfare should moderate remedies of the former but not the latter type. An experiment, using 441 female undergraduates, is reported in which group communication and the efficacy of cooperation were manipulated. As expected if communication induced commitments, but contrary to the group identity explanation, efficacy did not moderate the effect of group discussion. Other analyses provided more direct evidence that group members made and honored commitments to cooperate.

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Authors

  • Norbert L. Kerr

  • Cynthia M. Kaufman-Gilliland

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