Working paper by Sjåstad

18 September 2017 11:44

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."

Abstract:
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

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