SBEE Lecture Series: Sebastian Grueneisen

Mon, 10/15/2018 - 11:30am to 1:00pm

Ehrlicher Room, 3100 North Quad 

The Social, Behavioral and Experimental Economics lecture series is sponsored by the School of Information, the Ross School of Business and the Department of Economics. Speakers from U.S. and international universities present their research at weekly seminars during the 2018-2019 academic year. 

The role of social interdependence in children's cooperative decision-making


Cooperation enables people to reach outcomes that no individual could achieve alone. However, cooperation is inherently risky since by participating we make ourselves dependent on the cooperative acts of others which may or may not occur. The last decades have seen a surge of investigations into the psychological mechanisms that help people overcome these risks. A central proposition that has arisen from this research is that social interdependence may be an important evolutionary and proximate source of expectations and motivations that contribute to human cooperative success (Robert, 2005; Tomasello et al., 2012; Sterelny, 2012). In this talk, I will present research that addresses this issue from a developmental perspective by examining the role of social interdependence in children’s cooperative decision making. The results suggest that by at least age 7 children hold the expectation that interactions marked by social interdependence will be mutually beneficial which enables them coordinate their decisions with one another even without communicating. A second study with German and Kenyan 5- to 6-year-olds using a cooperative version of the famous marshmallow task indicates that social interdependence facilitates children’s motivation to invest effort in cooperative activities. Together, these findings provide developmental and cross-cultural evidence for the importance of social interdependence in shaping human cooperative psychology.

Speaker Bio

Sebastian Grueneisen studied psychology at Northumbria University and the University of St Andrews in the UK, and completed his PhD at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. His research investigates the developmental and evolutionary origins of human cooperation. To this end, he adapts game theory paradigms for experimental studies with children and nonhuman great apes, particularly chimpanzees. Using this approach, he aims at uncovering the cognitive and motivational components underlying cooperative decision-making in humans and our closest evolutionary relatives. 

This event will begin at 11:45 am and end at 12:45 pm.