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Please answer each question with 250 words minimum*Question 1. What does the competitive altruism approach suggest? Provide an example. Please cite and reference your course materials for each question.References: 9 (Attached)Question 2. Discuss the research of Hardy and Van Vugt (2006). Be sure to discuss the strengths and limitations of their research. Please tie your analysis of this article to theory from your course materials – Please cite and reference your course materials for each question. See the attached article.References: Research Document AttachedChapter 8 (Attached)


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Nice Guys Finish First:
The Competitive Altruism Hypothesis
Charlie L. Hardy
Mark Van Vugt
University of Kent at Canterbury
Three experimental studies examined the relationship between
altruistic behavior and the emergence of status hierarchies
within groups. In each study, group members were confronted
with a social dilemma in which they could either benefit themselves or their group. Study 1 revealed that in a reputation
environment when contributions were public, people were more
altruistic. In both Studies 1 and 2, the most altruistic members
gained the highest status in their group and were most frequently preferred as cooperative interaction partners. Study 3
showed that as the costs of altruism increase, the status rewards
also increase. These results support the premise at the heart of
competitive altruism: Individuals may behave altruistically for
reputation reasons because selective benefits (associated with
status) accrue to the generous.
Keywords: altruism; status; reputation; public goods; costly signals
umans are social animals. This phrase is often
stated in the social and evolutionary psychology literatures (Aronson, 1999; Buss, 2004; Van Vugt & Van Lange,
in press), but what does it actually mean? The answer
centers on issues of selfishness and altruism. Whereas
most other mammals help each other only within small
kinship groups, humans have the unique ability to form
and cooperate within large social groups, which include
many genetic strangers (McAndrew, 2002). For example,
humans invest time and energy in helping other members
in their neighborhood and make frequent donations to
charity (Van Vugt, Snyder, Tyler, & Biel, 2000), they come
to each other’s rescue in crises and disasters (Van Vugt &
Samuelson, 1999), they respond to appeals to sacrifice
for their country during a war (Stern, 1995), and they
put their lives at risk by helping complete strangers in an
emergency (Becker & Eagly, 2004).
Altruism, the intention to benefit others at a cost to
oneself (Batson, 1998; Van Vugt & Van Lange, in press),
is one of the major puzzles in the behavioral sciences
today. Across many decades of research, social psychologists studying altruism and cooperation have identified numerous important factors that affect helping
behavior, such as empathy (Batson, Duncan, Ackerman,
Buckley, & Birch, 1981), closeness (Neyer & Lang,
2003), mood (Isen, 1970), values (Omoto & Snyder,
1995; Van Lange, Otten, De Bruin, & Joireman, 1997),
and rewards for helping and costs for not helping
(Penner, Dovidio, Schroeder, & Piliavin, 2005; Van
Vugt, 1998). Yet, social psychological models of altruism
often do not address where these basic motivations
come from or how they came to be so important in
human evolutionary history (cf. McAndrew, 2002). For
evolutionary theorists, altruism has always been something of an enigma. How could any organism engage in
actions that seem to benefit others but not themselves?
Throughout the past decades, two main evolutionary
models of altruism have emerged: kin selection theory
(Hamilton, 1964) and reciprocal altruism theory
(Trivers, 1971). These models are well-founded in
mathematical theory and they have received overwhelming empirical support (Axelrod, 1984; Burnstein,
Crandall, & Kitayama, 1997; Neyer & Lang, 2003; Van
Lange & Semin-Goosens, 1998). Yet, questions remain
about the extent to which they can fully account for the
diversity and ubiquity of altruistic patterns in human
Authors’ Note: This article is based on doctoral research of the first
author and was supported by an award from the Economic and Social
Research Council (ESRC). Both authors contributed equally to the
research. Correspondence concerning this article should be
addressed to Charlie Hardy, Department of Psychology, University of
Kent at Canterbury, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NP, United Kingdom;
e-mail: [email protected]. Mark Van Vugt also may be reached via
e-mail at [email protected].
PSPB, Vol. 32 No. 10, October 2006 1402-1413
DOI: 10.1177/0146167206291006
© 2006 by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Inc.
society (Fehr & Fischbacher, 2003; Van Vugt, Roberts, &
Hardy, in press). Perhaps as a consequence, social psychologists have found it difficult to relate their theories
and findings to the deeper-rooted evolutionary theories
of kinship and reciprocity. It appears that something is
missing, but what?
In this article, we present a novel theory of altruism,
competitive altruism, which we believe can account for
a range of altruistic behaviors among humans in particular that theories of kinship and reciprocity cannot easily explain. Competitive altruism is the process through
which individuals attempt to outcompete each other
in terms of generosity. It emerges because altruism
enhances the status and reputation of the giver. Status,
in turn, yields benefits that would be otherwise unattainable. We present three experiments in which we test
various aspects of the competitive altruism hypothesis
in small groups involved in a public good dilemma, a
task that pits altruistic and selfish motives against each
other (Dawes, 1980; Komorita & Parks, 1994; Van Vugt
& De Cremer, 1999).1
Evolutionary Theories of Altruism: The Missing Link
Since the inception of evolutionary theory (Darwin,
1859), theorists have struggled to find a satisfactory solution to the altruism problem (Van Vugt & Van Lange, in
press). It was recognized that organisms would sometimes engage in self-sacrificial behaviors to benefit others but it was not clear how altruism could have been
selected for in evolution. After all, natural selection
favors traits and behaviors that benefit the reproductive
success of their bearers, allowing these traits and behaviors to spread through a population at the expense of
less successful designs (Van Vugt, Roberts, et al., in
press). The first successful attempt to solve the altruism
puzzle was Hamilton’s (1964) inclusive fitness theory
(kin selection theory). According to this theory, natural
selection would favor behaviors that benefit either the
organisms themselves or those who share their genes,
that is, closely related kin. Thus, caring for a grandchild
could be seen as adaptive given the genetic relatedness between grandmother and grandchild. This theory
has received overwhelming empirical support: People
behave more altruistically toward those to whom they
are more closely related (see, e.g., Burnstein et al., 1997;
Cialdini, Brown, Lewis, Luce, & Neuberg, 1997; Neyer &
Lang, 2003). Yet, it is unclear how kin selection theory
could account for altruism toward nonrelated individuals—a common feature of human societies (Van Vugt
et al., 2000)—unless it is assumed that individuals cannot
perfectly distinguish between kin and nonkin (the big
mistake hypothesis; Van Vugt & Van Lange, in press).
Reciprocal altruism theory (Trivers, 1971) proposed
another solution to the altruism problem. A design for
altruism toward genetic strangers could evolve if the
altruistic behavior is reciprocated by the receiving party,
either directly or at some point in the future. Two neighbors, for example, might decide to engage in reciprocal
exchange by looking after each other’s pets when the
other is on holiday. Although there is some empirical
support for this theory, among both humans (Axelrod,
1984) and other social species such as vampire bats
(Wilkinson, 1984), the stability of reciprocal altruism is
problematic because altruists may be exploited by individuals who fail to reciprocate, for example, one neighbor might move before fulfilling his or her obligation. It
is therefore hard to see how this theory could account
for altruism in human society where one-off encounters
between strangers are relatively common (Batson, 1998;
Snyder, Omoto, & Lindsay, 2004).
So, the mystery about the origins of altruism remains.
Can altruism ever evolve in interactions between genetic
strangers if these actions are not reciprocated? We believe
it can if we are willing to consider the idea that altruistic
actions are in fact a signal about the altruist’s personal
qualities. Altruism, if publicly displayed, increases the reputation and status of the altruists, which makes them
more attractive interaction partners, providing them benefits that are not available to nonaltruists. Reputation
effects could be the “selective incentive” (Olsen 1965)
that motivates certain individuals to do good for society.
But why should groups reward altruists with status?
The Competitive Altruism Hypothesis
One explanation comes from costly signaling theory
(Zahavi & Zahavi, 1997). Based on observations from
the animal world, Zahavi noted that organisms often
engage in behaviors that are costly to themselves to signal honest information about themselves. The classic
example is the peacock’s tail. The tail of a male peacock
handicaps the owner because it is extremely difficult to
grow and limits his movement so that he becomes an
easy catch for predators. This handicap can be selected
for, however, because it advertises the peacock’s quality
as a mate or ally. Handicaps such as these benefit signalers by increasing the likelihood that they may be
chosen as coalition partners or potential mates.
This theory suggests that altruism might qualify as a
handicap. By spending excessive amounts of energy,
time, and money on activities that are essentially
unselfish, altruists advertise some desirable underlying
quality that is costly to obtain and therefore hard to
fake, such as resource control, genetic endowment,
health, or vigor (Smith & Bleige Bird, 2000). The altruist benefits by increasing his or her social status and thus
the likelihood that he or she will be chosen as a mate or
ally. Through this, the altruists are able to recoup the
costs of their display in the long run.2
An alternative explanation is derived from indirect
reciprocity theory (Alexander, 1987). In this model,
support is given to individuals who have helped others,
so altruists are sometimes rewarded by the community
as a whole. Groups may compensate altruists by giving
them status and prestige because by doing so, they can
continue to benefit from the presence of these individuals in their community. By contributing to a public
good, an individual may thus build up a reputation for
being generous, which might make them more attractive as future exchange partners.
Whatever the precise mechanism, we suggest that
when reputations are at stake, this is likely to induce
competition. On one hand, people will be competing
with each other in terms of generosity to advertise
themselves as future exchange partners, and on the
other hand, observers are competing for access to the most
altruistic partners, hence, the term “competitive altruism”
(Van Vugt, Roberts, et al., in press).
Competitive altruism is presumably widespread in
human societies. The anthropological literature documents various examples of excessive public displays of
altruism and generosity. For example, in a Melanesian
tribe, family members organize a party after a relative’s
death, which includes giving food and gifts to all guests.
Turtle meat is most valued, presumably because turtle
hunting is a dangerous and time-consuming activity.
Therefore, a feast of turtle meat is an honest signal for
the quality of the men in a family (Smith & Bleige Bird,
2000). Similarly, chiefs of local Indian tribes in the
Northwest of America once engaged in fierce battles
of generosity by organizing pot latches, whereby they
would distribute food and luxury foods to members of
neighboring villages in an attempt to impress them with
their wealth (Wright, 2000). The social psychology
literature shows that an increase in the visibility and
decrease in the anonymity of individuals enhances their
cooperation in social dilemmas (Axelrod, 1984; Fox &
Guyer, 1978; Jerdee & Rosen, 1974). Finally, mathematical models show that both altruism as a costly signal
and altruism in indirect reciprocity might be evolutionary stable strategies (Gintis, Alden Smith, & Bowles,
2000; Nowak & Sigmund, 1998).
Our aim in this article is to provide a first experimental demonstration of the competitive altruism hypothesis in a controlled laboratory setting in which individuals
can behave altruistically or selfishly in the context of a
public good dilemma task.
Generosity in Public Good Dilemmas
There are presumably several conditions that must be
met for competitive altruism to emerge (McAndrew,
2002; Smith & Bleige Bird, 2000; Zahavi & Zahavi,
1997). First, the behavior must be costly for the actor to
display. Second, the behavior must be easily observable
to others. Third, the signal must be a reliable indicator
of some underlying trait or characteristic of the signaler,
for example, resource potential, wealth, health, or intelligence. Fourth, the behavior must in the long run benefit the actor who displays it. In light of these conditions,
we believe that an ideal arena to conduct some initial
tests of the competitive altruism theory is the public
good dilemma task (Komorita & Parks, 1994).
Why might contributing in a public good dilemma
enhance someone’s reputation? First, a contribution to
a public good is personally costly to the actor. Second,
contributing to a public good has the potential to attract
a large audience of interested observers who all profit if
the good is provided. Moreover, they can easily compare
among several contributors, which helps in making
inferences about the underlying quality of the contributors and also provides a competitive environment for
those involved (Henrich & Gil-White, 2001). Finally,
although altruistic contributions to public goods are
uneconomical, the costs could be recouped in the long
term if altruists were likely to gain nonmaterial benefits
such as status and prestige, which might yield long-term
profits, for example, by being chosen as interaction partners in future reciprocal exchanges (Roberts, 1998).
Research Predictions
The competitive altruism theory makes a number of
unique predictions about the emergence of altruism,
which we test here. The first prediction is that high contributors (i.e., altruists) should do significantly worse in
terms of their immediate outcomes in public good
dilemmas than should low contributors (Prediction 1).
Second, for competitive altruism to occur, the behavior must be visible to others so that they can evaluate
and respond to it. We therefore predict that contributions increase once people realize that their contributions are displayed publicly (Prediction 2).
Third, although altruism is costly in the short run,
there should be compensating benefits in the long run
for those who behave altruistically. In other words, nice
guys should finish first. One way to recoup the initial
costs of altruism is through a gain in social status. Thus,
our next prediction is that high contributors will be
seen as higher in status (Prediction 3a). The altruismstatus relationship should, of course, only hold if contributions are publicly displayed rather than made
anonymously (Prediction 3b). A discriminant prediction also is made: These status effects will not be driven
by altruists simply being liked more, perhaps due to a
“halo” effect (Thorndike, 1920) whereby altruists are
generally viewed more positively (Prediction 3c).
Fourth, high contributors are expected to benefit in
the long run from their altruistic displays (although
they are not necessarily aware of these benefits when
they behave altruistically). Hence, once the task has finished and another one starts, we expect that they are
more likely to be chosen as group leaders (Prediction
4) and interaction partners by other group members
(Prediction 5). They also should gain more in a subsequent game (Prediction 6).
Finally, the competitive altruism hypothesis suggests
that status differences are based in part on the perceived costs of altruism. Observers should be sensitive
to the size of the costs that people incur in contributing
to the group fund. Our final study manipulates the cost
of altruism by giving people either a high monetary
endowment (low-cost altruism) or low endowment
(high-cost altruism). Altruists should be awarded with
more status the greater the costs of their contributions
to the group (Prediction 7).
The present article contains three studies to test several aspects of the competitive altruism hypothesis.
Study 1 comprised an experimental task with the
properties of a continuous public good dilemma in
which each member of a group of three receives a monetary endowment and decides how much to contribute
to the group versus keep for themselves. Any money
contributed to the group earns a bonus, which is shared
equally between the group members and is added to
the money that members kept for themselves (De
Cremer & Van Vugt, 1999). We tested our first set of
hypotheses by including a manipulation of the reputation environment and by monitoring contributions in a
further round of the task. In the reputation condition,
participants received feedback regarding the contributions of the other members, whereas in the no reputation condition, there was no feedback.
Sixty-six students from a high school in the South of
England (32 girls, 34 boys; M age = 16.8 years) volunteered
to participate. Each participant was randomly allocated
to one of two experimental conditions: reputation or
no reputation. There were 11 groups of 3 participants
in each condition.
Upon arrival in the room, participants were issued
with an identification number (based simply on the
order that they arrived in the room) and seated in adjacent seats. They were randomly assigned to groups of
three using a random number generator to ensure that
friends were not in the same group.
Introduction to the public good dilemma. Once everyone
was seated the task was introduced as a group investment task to be completed in groups of three in which
people could earn money for themselves and for their
group. To try to avoid the possibility that participants
may guess the real purpose of the game, they were not
told how many rounds of the task they would complete
or that there was going to be a follow-up task.
Participants also were informed that it was not financially possible to pay every person what they earned in
the task but that the experimenter would pay the 10
highest earners the amount they earned. Winners were
informed by e-mail and sent their money by check.
At the start of the session, participants received an
endowment of 100 pence (approximately 175 U.S. cents).
They were free to contribute any amount from 0 to 100
pence to the private fund (p), which is kept by the individual, and any amount to the group fund (100 – p).
The total amount contributed to the group fund would
be multiplied by 2 and divided equally among the three
group members. Thus, the total sum an individual (i)
would earn would be pi + ([100 – p i 1] + [100 – p i 2] +
[100 – p i 3]) 2/3, where p i 2 and p i 3 are the other
group members. This payoff structure fulfils the criteria
for a continuous public good dilemma in that (a) it is
financially better for the individual to contribute to the
private fund, but (b) if every member did this, they
would each be worse off than if they all contribute to
the group fund (Dawes, 1980).
Participants were asked to complete a two-part question relating to their contribution choice: “You have
100 pence, (a) how much do you wish to contribute to
your personal (private) fund? (b) How much to do you
wish to contribute to the group fund?” The participants
were instructed to ensure that the total sum added up
to 100 pence, which was checked by one of the …
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