Project summary
Understanding how cooperation can spread is of importance for thriving societies, theory, and policy. Scholars identified several key features affecting cooperation. We highlight two fundamental ways that link networks to cooperation: mutual selection of cooperative actors, and influence from cooperators on defectors. The presence of ties can be a channel for enforcing cooperation (influence) through, e.g., learning, imitation, and sanctioning, but the possibility to endogenously create and sever ties can be an enforcement mechanism as well (selection). As selection changes the network, thus affecting the scope for influence processes, we need a dynamic approach to account for both mechanisms simultaneously that hitherto has not been addressed. Most work in that regard has been done with static network, however, social networks are not static but dynamic in nature. Yet, whether and how social networks affect cooperative behaviour and vice versa also depends on personality characteristics, most prominently social value orientation (SVO). Broadly, SVO distinguishes prosocial, individualistic and competitive types. Prosocial actors assign more value to collectively beneficial outcomes and therefore are more likely to cooperate than individualistic types. We study how configurations of social relations, cooperative behaviour and individuals’ SVOs co-evolve from one point of time to another. The scope of this project is twofold: accounting for factors ‘outside’ (selection and influence) and ‘inside’ of the individual (SVO). The main research question is: How do selection, influence, and SVO jointly relate to cooperation in (students’) social networks over time? This project moves beyond existing research in the field of cooperation in two ways: (1) it integrates selection and influence processes in a dynamic perspective, and (2) it tests how both processes are moderated by individuals’ SVO.

To answer the research questions, we propose to test influence, selection, SVO, and cooperation with a triangulation of methods to fill the knowledge gap in the literature: (1) a 4 wave longitudinal field study in the context of students which allows to study the co-evolution of social relations, perceived cooperativeness, and SVO; (2) public good game experiments with influence and/or selection manipulations to isolate external factors and explicate cooperation behaviour in the face of social dilemmas; and (3) agent-based modelling to study more complex conditions.

Carlos A. de Matos Fernandes

Prof. dr. Andreas Flache
Dr. Jacob Dijkstra


September 1, 2018 - August 31, 2022

Faculty Fund Behavioural and Social Sciences, University of Groningen


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