A Description-Experience Gap in Social Interactions: Information about Interdependence and Its Effects on Cooperation

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In social interactions, decision makers are often unaware of their interdependence with others, precluding the realization of shared long-term benefits. In an experiment, pairs of participants played an Iterated Prisoner's Dilemma under various conditions involving differing levels of interdependence information. Each pair was assigned to one of four conditions: 'No-Info' players saw their own actions and outcomes, but were not told that they interacted with another person; 'Min-Info' players knew they interacted with another person but still without seeing the other's actions or outcomes; 'Mid-Info' players discovered the other's actions and outcomes as they were revealed over time; and 'Max-Info' players were also shown a complete payoff matrix mapping actions to outcomes from the outset and throughout the game. With higher levels of interdependence information, we found increased individual cooperation and mutual cooperation, driven by increased reciprocating cooperation (in response to a counterpart's cooperation). Furthermore, joint performance and satisfaction were higher for pairs with more information. We discuss how awareness of interdependence may encourage cooperative behavior in real-world interactions.



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