Payoff Comprehension, Time Pressure and Cooperation:Testing the Social Heuristics Hypothesis

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Does reflection foster cooperation in social dilemmas? According to the Social Heuristics Hypothesis it does not; more thinking implies less cooperation. The empirical results, which often use time pressure to constrain thinking, are mixed. In this paper we combine a lab experiment with a re-analysis of previous studies to shed new light on the existing literature on reflection and cooperation. Our analysis suggests two main explanations for the mixed findings i) The effect of time pressure is contingent on payoff comprehension, which varies a lot across studies, ii) the true effect of time pressure is likely to be quite small, which means that individual studies are underpowered to detect an effect. Together, these two features can help account for the discrepancies in results reported in this literature.