Endogenous oxytocin predicts helping and conversation as a function of group membership
2018-7-4, Mcclung, Jennifer, Triki, Zegni, Clément, Fabrice, Bangerter, Adrian, Bshary, Redouan
Humans cooperate with unrelated individuals to an extent that far outstrips any other species. We also display extreme variation in decisions about whether to cooperate or not, and the mechanisms driving this variation remain an open question across the behavioural sciences. One candidate mechanism underlying this variation in cooperation is the evolutionary ancient neurohormone oxytocin (OT). As current research focuses on artificial administration of OT in asocial tasks, little is known about how the hormone in its naturally occurring state actually impacts behaviour in social interactions. Using a new optimal foraging paradigm, the ‘egg hunt’, we assessed the association of endogenous OT with helping behaviour and conversation. We manipulated players' group membership relative to each other prior to an egg hunt, during which they had repeated opportunities to spontaneously help each other. Results show that endogenous baseline OT predicted helping and conversation type, but crucially as a function of group membership. Higher baseline OT predicted increased helping but only between in-group players, as well as decreased discussion about individuals’ goals between in-group players but conversely more of such discussion between out-group players. Subsequently, behaviour but not conversation during the hunt predicted change in OT, in that out-group members who did not help showed a decrease in OT from baseline levels. In sum, endogenous OT predicts helping behaviour and conversation, importantly as a function of group membership, and this effect occurs in parallel to uniquely human cognitive processes.
The language of cooperation: shared intentionality drives variation in helping as a function of group membership
2017-8-27, McClung, Jennifer Susan, Placi, Sarah, Bangerter, Adrian, Clément, Fabrice, Bshary, Redouan
While 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.