Norms and Cohesion as Adaptive Responses to Potential Conflict: An Experimental Study

  • Bonacich P
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Abstract

The Prisoners' Dilemma (PD) game is a prototype of two central concerns of sociology, the problem of order and the problem of collective action, which are both types of conflict between individual and collective goals. An index of dilemma, D, is developed to characterize situations with respect to the degree of conflict between individual and collective goals. It is hypothesized that group norms and group solidarity are mechanisms groups devise to increase cooperation in PD-like situations. In an experiment using a five-person PD game, it is shown that an increase in D leads to an increase in group friendlines and in attempts by group members to define the potential noncooperator as immoral and untrustworthy. Thus, and increase in the potential for conflict within groups can lead to strengthened group norms and cohesion if this conflict is of the sort described by the Prisoners' Dilemma. This is contrary to the prevalent conception that norms arise from an identity of interests between group members.

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Authors

  • Phillip Bonacich

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