The Role of Social Learning in solving cooperative dilemmas.

Lead Research Organisation: Durham University
Department Name: Anthropology


Individuals may solve problems using their own innovation or by learning from others. Empirical investigations of social learning have focussed on the solving of technological tasks in animals including humans. However, relatively little work has addressed how learning from others may be employed in social behaviour,
where individuals may need to decide whether or not to cooperate with others. Meanwhile, in cooperation research, studies of how people solve these kinds of social dilemma tasks have often conspicuously failed to predict individual behaviour. This project will apply conceptual and empirical advances made in the field of social learning to understanding behaviour in social dilemma tasks. Our key aims are: (1) to investigate what role social learning plays in determining behaviour in social dilemmas; (2) to define the characteristics of those individuals who tend to be copied; (3) to investigate how people can use social learning in the context of reputation building where only long term behaviour is strategic; and (4) to investigate the interaction between influencing others through punishment and learning from others. We will employ computer-based economic experimental games incorporating social dilemmas, in which there is a conflict between personal and group gain. The project will be significant in advancing our understanding of social behaviour, particularly in cooperative dilemmas, by drawing on parallel developments in the field of social learning. This will help us to understand human uniqueness in two key areas: how humans maintain their extraordinary large-scale cooperation, and its relevance to the apparently unique extent of culture and particularly cumulative culture, in humans.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000762/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2027
1929702 Studentship ES/P000762/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2021 Robin Oliver Watson
Description Arizona state University visit, collaboration and training 
Organisation Arizona State University
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution I did not directly contribute to ASU or the academic kind enough to host me for my visit.
Collaborator Contribution The host partner at ASU provided specialist research training on software called "Dallinger" which will / has been used by myself to conduct a substantive online experiment. The software handles the running of the experiment and the recruitment and paying of participant, speeding up data collection tremendously. My host at ASU provided personal training to myself as well as provided finance for my accommodation costs while in Arizona. I stayed in Arizona for 2 months, but he continues to provide support via email and Skype when needed.
Impact No published outcomes yet.
Start Year 2019