Research team

Management

Expertise

Cooperation and conflict in social dilemmas, neuroeconomics

Trust, legitimacy and intended compliance with COVID-19 exit strategy measures. 01/06/2020 - 31/05/2021

Abstract

Hoewel ingrijpende Covid-19 lockdownmaatregelen legitiem waren in de eerste maanden van de crisis, begint de roep om strenge maatregelen geleidelijk aan af te nemen. Burgers eisen dat exit-strategieën ontwikkeld worden met voldoende aandacht voor hun sociaaleconomische belangen, terwijl potentiële inbreuken op grondrechten zoals bewegingsvrijheid, privacy en eerlijke mededinging, en rechtsbeginselen zoals gelijkheid en proportionaliteit, leiden tot kritiek en zelfs rechtszaken tegen overheidsmaatregelen. De huidige overheidsstrategieën zijn hoofdzakelijk gebaseerd zijn op epidemiologisch en medisch onderzoek. De toenemende relevantie van sociale en juridische factoren voor exit-strategieën impliceert echter dat nieuwe data en kennis dringend nodig zijn. In het bijzonder is er behoefte aan inzicht in de voorwaarden waaronder Covid-19 overheidsmaatregelen sociaal legitiem en wettig zijn en burgers stimuleren tot naleving. Ons project verhelpt het gebrek aan wetenschappelijke en beleidsrelevante kennis van sociale en juridische factoren van belang bij Covid- 19 exit-strategieën, door middel van een dubbele onderzoekaanpak: 1) drie vignette surveys bestuderen hoe de nalevingsbereidheid en legitimiteit van combinaties van nieuwe Belgische Covid-19 maatregelen worden beïnvloed door framing op onderliggende volksgezondheids-, sociale en juridische belangen, en 2) een systematische juridische analyse genereert inzicht in de wettigheid van nieuwe maatregelen, en dient tevens als essentiële input voor het ontwerp van voornoemde vignette surveys. Door middel van continue communicatie aan overheden van resultaten uit zowel de vignette survey als de juridische analyse, kunnen we reeds gedurende het project beleidsrelevante input leveren voor concrete maatregelen. Daarmee helpen we overheden om geïnformeerde en gebalanceerde beslissingen te nemen over hun exit-strategieën en helpen we gebrekkige naleving van of rechtszaken tegen Covid-19 maatregelen te voorkomen.

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Trust and distrust in multi-level governance: causes, dynamics, and effects (GOVTRUST). 01/01/2020 - 31/12/2025

Abstract

Contemporary governance of society is complex, as public authorities at different levels of government (EU, national, subnational) cooperate with non-state actors in multi-layered decision-making arenas when designing and implementing regulation. This complexity of governance is reflected in the concept of 'multi-level governance'. For a multi-level governance system to perform well, trust is a fundamental condition. While a certain degree of organised distrust between actors may be functional, the recurring reports of declining trust between citizens, private sector organizations, and public authorities at different governmental levels raise severe challenges for society. When trust declines, cooperation between citizens, private organizations, and government, but also between public authorities at the different levels of government is compromised. And without cooperation, effective governance is not possible. However, scientific knowledge about the dynamics, causes and effect of trust and distrust in multilevel governance is underdeveloped. Encompassing research teams from political science and public administration, law, communication sciences and behavioural economics, the research excellence consortium GOVTRUST will study in an interdisciplinary way the dynamics, causes and effects of trust and distrust between the actors involved in multi-level governance. To that end, the consortium will apply mixed research designs with diverse research methodologies, including legal studies, large-N surveys, different kinds of experiments, content analysis, social network analysis as well as small-N controlled case comparisons. With its research program, collaborations and activities the consortium will contribute to scientific knowledge at an international level of excellence, while increasing the international reputation of the University of Antwerp and aiming for a substantial impact on the governance of society.

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On the malleability of fairness norms: the role of social values, wise reasoning, power asymmetry, and inter-group conflict. 01/01/2020 - 31/12/2023

Abstract

Understanding the roots of fairness is crucial to sustain democracy, human well-being, and economic systems. An abundance of research has shown that fairness preferences are malleable, influenced by dispositional (traits) and contextual (state) factors. Mostly, these two approaches are studied independently. We propose to integrate the trait- and state- approach in an interdisciplinary study that addresses how, when, and for whom, context is likely to affect fairness preferences and behavior. We will conduct behavioral- and neuro-imaging experiments to test how power asymmetry and inter-group conflict alter fairness judgments and decisions depending on values and reasoning capacity. We further investigate how neural networks of individuals with different social value orientations change when making decisions in contexts that vary with respect to power asymmetry and inte ersonal conflict. Together these experiments will reveal why some people are more prone to change their fairness norms in function of their power position and the level of conflict. Given that many personal and economic transactions are embedded in hierarchical, fragmented, or competing groups, understanding how power and conflict can strengthen or compromise fairness may have important societal implications.

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Determinants of fairness and inequity aversion in leader-follower relationships: The role of incentives, norms, and social value orientation. 01/11/2019 - 31/10/2021

Abstract

The project investigates how fairness and inequity aversion, two human universals with well-known effects on economic behavior, are subject to change within the hierarchy of a leader-follower relationship. Following identity theory, we propose that adopting the role of leader or follower induces a norm transformation that decreases the fairness concerns of the leader and increases the tolerance of the follower. We propose a set of behavioral experiments to first test (1) to what extent priming a leader/follower identity alters fairness considerations and inequity aversion, and (2) how the identity shift resulting from priming leader/follower roles is moderated by the experienced power asymmetry and personality differences. Next, we explore (3) if the changes in fairness considerations and inequity aversion can in part be explained by the actions of the neurohormone oxytocin, given its known role in regulating mammalian social behavior. Finally (4), we zoom in on different types of followers and investigate how their inequity aversion and with it their physical arousal respond to leaders with differing ethical principles. Gaining insights into the factors that substantiate the behavioral changes elicited by a leader/follower identity shift, and in the reasons why some followers comply while others resist, will help us to better understand why, and how, social hierarchies are sustainable.

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Determinants of fairness and inequity aversion in leader-follower relationships: the role of incentives, norms, and social value orientation. 01/10/2017 - 30/09/2021

Abstract

Universal principles of fairness and inequity aversion play an important role in leader-follower relationships. We experimentally study decision-making of leaders (fairness) and followers (inequity aversion) by unraveling the interactive effects of incentives, leader/follower role, and social value orientation. Behavioral and hormonal studies will identify the biological mechanisms accounting for the variability in fairness and inequity aversion.

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Gossip as social glue: an investigation into the potential mediating role of oxytocin. 01/10/2015 - 30/09/2019

Abstract

Across time and cultures, gossip has proven to be a universal behavior that strengthens social cohesion and increases trust, presumably because of its stress-reduction and social information-sharing functions. So far, the underlying biological mechanisms of this relation have received little or no attention. We suspect that the neuropeptide oxytocin (OT), which is known to have an important role in regulating social behaviors in all mammals, is likely to be involved. OT levels increase when receiving a trust signal or sharing a secret, two behaviors that also have been attributed to the act of gossip. Hence it is conceivable that gossiping may stimulate OT release, which in turn, promote positive in-group dynamics The purpose of the proposed study is to investigate if, and how, OT could have a mediating role in the relation between gossip on the one hand, and trust and cooperation on the other hand. In addition, we will investigate the moderating effects of individual differences (gender and personality traits) and contextual factors (gossip between friends vs. strangers). We propose a set of laboratory experiments whereby we test whether gossiping participants (compared to solitary or non-gossiping participants) show (1) a temporary increase in salivary OT level (i.e., a greater OT reactivity) and (2) an increase in trust and willingness to cooperate with group members. This project is innovative because it merges two streams of research that have up to now been pursued mostly independently. On the one hand, the social sciences have addressed how and when gossip facilitates social cohesion. On the other hand, in the field of psychoneuroendocrinology, increasing attention is paid to the underlying neural circuits and chemicals that underscore prosocial behaviors like trusting and cooperating. So far both fields of expertise have not been linked to each other. Given the ubiquity of gossip in all cultures and its pervasiveness in almost every aspect of life, we believe the outcomes of this project will appeal to different scientific domains and society at large.

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In the mind's eye: does the effect of real versus stylized eye cues on cooperative behavior vary according to context and one's intrinsic motivation? A behavioral and fMRI study. 01/10/2013 - 30/09/2017

Abstract

The project proposes to investigate the neural processes along with the contingencies that underlie the relation between eye cues and cooperative behavior in social dilemmas. We differentiate between real and stylized, (iconic) eye cues, and we propose that only the former provide social information and are capable of eliciting trust by affecting the brain's social cognition system (temporo-parietal junction, medial frontal cortex, and amygdala), while the latter, inducing a feeling of being watched, influence a person's reputation concerns by affecting neural activity in the lateral PFC. In addition, we expect that the effect of real versus stylized eyes (and underlying patterns of brain activation) should vary according to a person's social value orientation (SVO). We test these hypotheses in three different contexts, a simultaneously and sequentially played prisoner's dilemma game and an assurance game because these three games differ in their motives of greed and fear that typically drive people towards non-cooperation. We test if real versus stylized eye cues curb fear and greed respectively (thereby increasing cooperation), depending on a person's SVO.

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The role of oxytocin and the moderating effect of social context and personality on human affiliative behavior. 01/07/2011 - 30/06/2015

Abstract

The neuropeptide oxytocin (OT) has been shown to play a crucial role in establishing trust and cooperation due to its anxiolytic effect and regulation of social affiliation. Recent research indicates that individual differences in OT metabolism correlate with differences in several aspects of social behavior (including empathy, stress reactivity, and an increased likelihood of autism). In addition, the effect of OT on trust and social affiliation appears to depend on contextual inputs and vary with personal characteristics. The purpose of the current study is therefore threefold. First, we intend to investigate the moderating influence of the social context and personality traits on the behavioral consequences of extraneous nasal OT (versus placebo) administration. Second, we want to gain more insight into the underlying neural mechanism by which OT induces trust and affiliation. Specifically, we explore by means of fMRI and DTI the functional and anatomical connectivity between the neural correlates of fear regulation (amygdala) and social approach (nucleus accumbens). Third, we explore if there might be a relation between low plasma levels of OT and/or the workings of OT on the one hand, and social delinquency on the other hand. Gaining knowledge into the interaction between a hormone that regulates fear and social affiliation, the social environment, and delinquent behavior, might prove to be useful in developing appropriate clinical and behavioural therapies for youth who suffer from social integration problems.

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Individual differences is self-regulating behavior: a functional imaging study on brain processes substantiating goal-directedness, persistence, and adaptive behaviour. 01/07/2009 - 30/06/2013

Abstract

The project aims to gain insights into the origin of individual differences in impuls control and self regulation. We test the hypothesis that activity in three hypothesized brain regions correlates on the one hand with dopamine receptor gene polymorphisme, and on the other hand with stable personality traits reflecting motivated, persistent, and adaptive behavior.

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An fMRI study investigating the determinants of cooperation in social dilemmas. 01/02/2009 - 31/12/2010

Abstract

This fMRI study aims to gain insight into how the neural substrate of cooperation is determined by environmental factors and personality. We hypothesize that prosocials, due to a more sensitive social brain, are more easily influenced by subtle environmental cues. We further investigate if judging a (non)cooperative partner activates emotional processing in prosocials, while it is cognitively processed by proselfs.

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The influence of emotions on decision-making in social dilemmas. 01/10/2006 - 30/09/2010

Abstract

The proposed research draws on insights in economics, psychology, and the neurosciences to better understand why human decision-making so often deviates from game-theoretic predictions. The specific aim is to examine by means of fMRI what the underlying roles of emotional versus cognitive brain networks might be while people are choosing a cooperative versus a competitive strategy in a social dilemma. The role of personality and the context of the dilemma are also investigated.

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Cognition versus emotion in strategy selection during ultimatum games and nested social dilemmas. The moderating role of individual differences. 01/05/2005 - 30/04/2009

Abstract

Deviations from economically "rational" decisions in anonymous, one-shot strategic interactions remain difficult to explain from a purely economic point of view. We propose an experimental study to investigate how strategy selection depends on the environmental context and individual differences. We hypothesize that (1) strategy selection depends on the extent to which the context of the interaction will activate the socio-emotional versus cognitive information processing networks in the brain, and (2) individual differences will influence strategy selection to the extent that they correlate with the activation of socio-emotional processing.

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