Self-conscious cooperation: implications of a functional approach to emotions for behavior in social dilemmas
As the world's resources face increasing pressure from a growing population, it is critical that psychologists understand the motivational processes that lead to cooperation or defection in the context of social dilemmas. Research has uncovered several key strategies for encouraging maintenance of these resources, however, one area that remains understudied is the effect various emotions may have on cooperation. Furthermore, it is important to consider the specific type of desired behavior: reduction of consumption of a shared resource, or increased contribution to a shared resource. The current study takes a step in this direction, examining the effects of two self-conscious emotions, guilt and pride, on behavior in two different kinds of social dilemmas. Guilt, a prosocial emotion that has been described as a "behavioral interrupt mechanism," is predicted to increase cooperation in both a social trap game and a public goods dilemma game. However, its effects should be strongest in the social trap game, in which the desired behavior is reduced consumption. Pride, an emotion that is conceptually related to the constructs of status and power, is predicted to motivate action in both domains, by increasing both consumption in the social trap game and contribution in the public goods dilemma game. Results partially support these predictions: Whereas guilt and pride both had the predicted effects on consumption in the social trap game, neither had a significant effect on contribution in the public goods dilemma game. Individual differences are examined, as are the results of a Game Feedback Sheet, which yielded insight as to how participants understood the rules of the games, and why they chose the strategies they did. Results support the idea that emotions represent a potentially fruitful avenue of research in social dilemma cooperation, and possible future directions for this research are discussed.