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- PublicationAccès libreThe language of cooperation: shared intentionality drives variation in helping as a function of group membershipWhile we know that the degree to which humans are able to cooperate is unrivalled by other species, the variation humans actually display in their cooperative behaviour has yet to be fully explained. This may be because research based on experimental game-theoretical studies neglects fundamental aspects of human sociality and psychology, namely social interaction and language. Using a newoptimal foraging game loosely modelled on the prisoner’s dilemma, the Egg Hunt, we categorized players as either in-group or out-group to each other and studied their spontaneous language usage while they made interactive, potentially cooperative decisions. Both shared group membership and the possibility to talk led to increased cooperation and overall success in the hunt. Notably, analysis of players’ conversations showed that in-group members engaged more in shared intentionality, the human ability to both mentally represent and then adopt another’s goal, whereas out-group members discussed individual goals more. Females also helped more and displayed more shared intentionality in discussions than males. Crucially, we show that shared intentionality was the mechanism driving the increase in helping between in-group players over out-group players at a cost to themselves. By studying spontaneous language during social interactions and isolating shared intentionality as the mechanism underlying successful cooperation, the current results point to a probable psychological source of the variation in cooperation humans display.