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Cooperation Competition and Conflict

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Cooperation Competition and Conflict
578
Chapter 14
Social Psychology
question. Some researchers dispute the claim that this study illustrated truly altruistic
helping. They suggest instead that people help in such situations for more selfish reasons, such as relieving the distress they experienced after hearing of the woman’s problems (Maner et al., 2002). The final verdict on this question is not yet in.
Evolutionary Theory The evolutionary approach to psychology offers a third way
to explain helping. According to this approach, many human social behaviors are a
reflection of actions that contributed to the survival of our prehistoric ancestors (Buss,
2003). At first glance, it might not seem reasonable to apply evolutionary theory to
helping and altruism, because helping others at the risk of our own well-being does
not appear adaptive. If we die while trying to save others, it will be their genes, not
ours, that will survive. In fact, according to Darwin’s concept of the “survival of the
fittest,” helpers—and their genes—should have disappeared long ago. Today’s evolutionary theorists suggest, however, that Darwin’s thinking about natural selection
focused too much on the survival of the fittest individuals and not enough on the survival of their genes in others. Accordingly, the concept of survival of the fittest has been
replaced by the concept of inclusive fitness, the survival of one’s genes in future generations (Hamilton, 1964; Kruger, 2003). Because we share genes with our relatives,
helping—or even dying for—a cousin, a sibling, or, above all, our own child increases
the likelihood that at least some of our genetic characteristics will be passed on to the
next generation through the beneficiary’s future reproduction. So kin selection, or helping a relative to survive, may produce genetic benefits for the helper even if it provides
no personal benefits (Kruger, 2003).
There is considerable evidence that kin selection occurs among birds, squirrels, and
other animals. The more closely the animals are related, the more likely they are to
risk their lives for one another. Studies in a wide variety of cultures show the same
pattern of helping among humans (Buss, 2003). For example, people in the United
States are three times as likely to donate a kidney to a relative as to a nonrelative
(Borgida, Conner, & Monteufel, 1992). (See “In Review: Helping Behavior” for a summary of the major reasons why people help and the conditions under which they are
most likely to do so.)
Cooperation, Competition, and Conflict
cooperation
Any type of behavior in
which people work together to attain
a goal.
competition
Any type of behavior in
which individuals try to attain a goal
for themselves while denying that goal
to others.
conflict What occurs when a person or
group believes that another person or
group interferes with the attainment of
a goal.
social dilemmas
Situations in which
actions that produce rewards for one
individual will produce negative consequences if they are adopted by
everyone.
Helping is one of several ways in which people cooperate with one another. Cooperation is any type of behavior in which people work together to attain a goal (Penner
et al., 2005b). For example, several law students might form a study group to help one
another pass the bar exam. But people also compete with others for limited resources.
Those same students might later try to outdo one another to be chosen for a single job
opening at a top law firm. Competition exists whenever individuals try to reach a goal
themselves while denying that goal to others. Finally, there is conflict, which occurs
when a person or group believes that another person or group interferes with the
attainment of a goal. When the law students become attorneys and represent opposing
parties in a trial, they will be in conflict with one another. One way in which psychologists have learned about all three of these phenomena is by studying social dilemmas
(Weber, Kopelman, & Messick, 2004).
Social dilemmas are situations in which an action that is most rewarding for each
individual will, if adopted by all others in the situation, create problems for everyone
(Dawes & Messick, 2000). For instance, during a drought, each homeowner is better
off in the short run by watering the lawn as often as necessary to keep it from dying;
but if everyone ignores local water restrictions, there will be no drinking water for anyone in the long run. Social dilemmas reflect conflicts between the interests of the individual and those of the group and between short-term and long-term interests
(Schroeder, 1995). Are people from collectivist cultures (which emphasize cooperation)
less likely to act competitively or selfishly in social dilemma situations? In general, they
may be, but interpersonal conflict in such situations still appears to some extent in all
cultures (Smith & Bond, 1999).
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