Working paper by Sjåstad

18 September 2017 11:44

(updated: 26 April 2018 08:38)

Working paper by Sjåstad

Hallgeir Sjåstad, affiliated researcher at FAIR-The Choice Lab has a new working paper "Short-sighted greed? Focusing on the future promotes strategic cooperation."

Hallgeir Sjåstad, Postdoctoral Fellow at NHH (Institutt for strategi og ledelse) and affiliated researcher at FAIR-The Choice Lab has published a working paper "Short-sighted greed? Focusing on the future promotes strategic cooperation."

The ability to think about the future and cooperate with strangers are two distinct traits of human nature. Across two experiments (N=610), I propose and test a causal connection: Sometimes people cooperate because they think long-term. In Study 1 (N=200), participants in a public dictator game scenario gave more money to the recipient when they were future-focused than when they were present-focused (+39%). Future-focused participants were also willing to donate more money to charity than present-focused participants (+61%). Study 2 (N=410) replicated the positive effect of future-focus on dictator giving when the choice was framed as public (+36%), as in Study 1, but not in a novel condition where the choice was framed as private (-13%, NS). That is, focusing on the future only made participants more generous when others would know their identities and the outcome of their decision, providing a reputational basis for resource sharing. Anonymous giving (altruism) was unaffected by time framing. Taken together, the results indicate a causal link between future thinking and strategic cooperation. A key function of future-oriented cognition might be to shift one’s attention from immediate costs to anticipated rewards of pro-social behavior, thereby counteracting any short-sighted or present-biased inclinations to maximize one’s wealth immediately. Ideally, adopting a future-oriented mindset can help individuals and groups become more successful by stimulating long-term cooperation. In conclusion, one reason humans cooperate is that they think about the future consequences of their choices.

Read the working paper