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Humans expect generosity from others says new study from Business School

Professor Branas Garza and Dr Rodriguez-Lara’s insightful new research reveals majority of us expect generosity over self-interest from fellow human beings

Open handsProfessor Pablo Branas Garza and Dr Ismael Rodriguez-Lara from Middlesex University’s Business School have published a new study in Scientific Reports that shows six out of ten people expect generosity from fellow citizens.

The research explored people’s expectations of generosity in a series of controlled experiments using the dictator game (DG).

The DG is a simple one-shot game with two players: the first one (the dictator) is invited to divide a specific amount of money between himself and the second player (the recipient). The dictator then divides this in any way he chooses, while the recipient is not permitted to make any claim to the money.

The authors investigated the expectations the recipients had of their dictators and while theory predicts that the latter would give nothing, the research shows that the majority (60%) of subjects expected an equal split from their dictators.

“Our research shows that humans expect other humans to behave socially, even when you would assume that self-interest should be the rule,” says Pablo Branas Garza, Professor of Economics at Middlesex University.

“We believe that our results show that cooperation might be the default option for a large fraction of the population. Future research work could focus on the relationship between expectations and cooperative behaviour.”

205 participants were recruited for the study in total with 150 students taking part in laboratory computerised experiments in Spain and others involved in field studies in Mexico.

Participants in the research took part under different conditions including recipients in the laboratory guessing their own and others’ donations, recipients in the field guessing their own donations, recipients in the laboratory paired with absent dictators and dictators guessing the donation of other dictators.

The data was collected between May 2008 and February 2013.

Read the full report here.

Learn more about studying business at Middlesex University

Picture attribution: Atrotem, Flickr Creative Commons 2.1

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