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Title: Simulating social dilemmas : promoting cooperative behaviour through strategies of mental simulation
Author: Meleady, Rose
Awarding Body: University of Kent
Current Institution: University of Kent
Date of Award: 2013
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One of the most consistent findings in experimental social dilemmas research is the positive effect group discussion has on cooperative behaviour. At a time when cooperation is critical to tackle societal problems, ranging from debt to deforestation, understanding the dynamics of group discussion is a pressing need. Unfortunately, research investigating the processes underlying the effect has stalled in a state of disagreement, whilst applications have been discouraged by the realisation that discussion amongst all decision-makers is often difficult to establish. The first part of this thesis uniquely integrates previously competing 'single-cause' explanations of the group discussion effect into a single process model of group discussion, providing a more complete theoretical picture of how intenelated factors combine to facilitate discussion induced cooperation. On the basis of this theoretical analysis, complimentary approaches to the indirect and feasible implementation of group discussion are proposed, including the entirely new concept of imagined group discussion. Results within the second part of the thesis support the conclusion that when individuals imagine discussing a social dilemma with nominal group members they engage in cognitive processes consonant with those underlying the direct group discussion effect, thereby resulting in higher levels of cooperative behaviour. The third part of the thesis demonstrates that when the size of the group facing the dilemma is so large that even imagining a discussion amongst all decision-makers becomes impracticable (i.e. within global-level dilemmas), an imagined discussion with a single outgroup member successfully encourages collectively beneficial decision-making. The use of imagined communication techniques is therefore advocated as a simple, versatile and inexpensive means of encouraging cooperative behaviour without the limiting requirement of proximity between discussants.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available