sábado, mayo 31, 2008

Las sociedades occidentales, entre las mas virtuosas socialmente

Así se desprende de un trabajo de economía experimental en este estudio reflejado en el Wall Street Journal. (texto, abajo).

El juego, ya clásico, consiste en reunir a un grupo de personas, darles una cantidad igual de dinero y permitirles ceder parte de éste al grupo en su conjunto. segun lo que se ceda, recibrán una cantidad mayor o menor de dinero, pero todos igual. Este juego acababa siempre en una deserción masiva a la primera que alguien no cedia apenas dinero. La gente se "quemaba", digamos al ver que otro, con mucha cara, se aprovechaba de los demás.

La cosa cambia cuando se permite a cada uno vengarse del que no contribuye por el siguiente mecanismo: el vengador paga una cantidad de dinero a cambo de qutarle otra mas grande al que tiene la cara dura. el vengado no conoce quien es el vengador.

Con esta nueva regla las cosas cambian. Habitualmente la victima de la venganza empieza a contribuir mas y se recupera el equilibrio, por lo que el juego prosigue y todos contribuyen.

Este experimento se ha llevado a cabo con jugadores de varios paises. Lo que se ha observado curiosamente es que las personas de muchas sociedades autoritarias o con lazos de cooperación basados en el parentesco, cuando son vengados por contribuir poco, en lugar de contribuir más, lo que hacen es contraatacar vengandose a su vez, y lo hacen contra los que mas contribuyen. Piensan que ellos no hacen nada malo, que es lo normal, y también piensan que el que mas contribuye es el que se ha vengado.

Como los jugadores no se conocen entre si y pertenecen a distintas culturas y religiones, esto se puede interpretar como que este tipo de jugadores considera a los demás fuera de su circulo de personas con las que se siente obligado a corrersponder, y se correlaciona con paises con un bajo nivel de confianza mútua, cooperación cívica e imperio de la ley según el World Values Survey.
Por el contrario, en sociedades mas ricas, con mercados mas fuertes, el trato habitual con extraños fuerza estos a considerarlos dentro de su circulo de personas a con las que se puede colaborar.
Y este es el artículo referido, con permiso del WSJ: (Nota, en el original hay un video que no aparece aqui donde el autor de la investigación narra los resultados, muy recomendable)

Revenge of the Freeloaders

Study Finds Culture

Influences Reaction

To Reward, Rebuke
May 30, 2008; Page A10

We all bristle at people who put themselves ahead of the common good, whether it is by evading taxes, shirking military service, cheating on bus fares or littering. Many of us will go out of our way to shame, shun or otherwise punish them, researchers have shown. That's how we foster a community that benefits everyone, even at some cost to ourselves.

Economists analyzing ingredients of the social glue that holds us all together wonder whether that public spirit of rebuke and reward is an innate human value or a byproduct of the particular society in which we live. Until recently, however, they rarely have reached across cultural boundaries to compare how people in disparate communities actually weigh private gain against public good.


[Science Journal forum]
Do you consider it your role to contribute to the common good? When you see others take advantage, how do you react? Discuss in an online forum.

In the most sweeping global study yet of cooperation, a team of experimental economists tested university students in 15 countries to see how people contribute to joint ventures and what happens to them when they don't. The European research team discovered startling differences in how groups around the world react when punishment is handed out for antisocial behavior.

In some countries, researchers found, almost no good turn went unpunished. "What kept popping up is this element of retaliation," said economist Benedikt Herrmann at the U.K.'s University of Nottingham, who reported the experiment this past March in Science. "It took us by surprise."

Among students in the U.S., Switzerland, China and the U.K., those identified as freeloaders most often took their punishment as a spur to contribute more generously. But in Oman, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Greece and Russia, the freeloaders more often struck back, retaliating against those who punished them, even against those who had given most to everyone's benefit. It was akin to rapping the knuckles of the helping hand.

To explore cooperation across cultures, Dr. Herrmann and his colleagues recruited 1,120 college students in 16 cities around the globe for a public-good game. The exercise is one of several devised by economists in recent years to distill the complex variables of human behavior into transactions simple enough to be studied under controlled laboratory conditions.

The volunteers played in anonymous groups of four. Each player started with 20 tokens that could be redeemed for cash after 10 rounds. Players could contribute tokens to a common account or keep them all to themselves.

After each round, the pooled funds paid a dividend shared equally by all, even those who didn't contribute. Previous research shows that a single selfish individual riding on the generosity of others can so irritate other players that contributions soon drop to nothing.

[greater good]
Stuart Bradford

That changes when players can identify and punish those who don't contribute (in this case, by deducting points that can quickly add up to serious money). Once such peer pressure comes into play, everyone -- including the shamed freeloader -- starts to chip in.

"Freeloaders are disliked everywhere," said study co-author Simon Gachter, who studies economic decision-making at Nottingham. "Cooperation always breaks down if people can't punish."

The students behaved the same way in all 16 cities until given the chance to punish those taking a free ride on the shared investment. Punishment was done anonymously, and it cost one token to discipline another player.


[Science Journal reading]
Studying peer pressure in 15 countries, economist Benedikt Herrmann at the UK's University of Nottingham reported on "Antisocial Punishment Across Societies" in Science.

The researchers also ranked the national responses against the World Values Survey, which periodically assesses values and cultural changes in societies all over the world.

Searching for the origins of economic behavior, an international research team studied 15 primitive cultures in 12 countries and reported their findings in

We may be hard-wired to care about social standing, scientists at the US National Institute of Mental Health reported in "Know Your Place: Neural Processing of Social Hierarchy in Humans."

At Japan's National Institute for Psychological Sciences, researchers reported in "Processing of Social and Monetary Rewards in the Human Striatum" that reputation activates the same brain areas as money.

Free-market philosopher Adam Smith, author in 1776 of An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations wrote first in 1759 on praise, blame, ethics and human nature in The Theory of Moral Sentiments.

Among those punished, differences emerged immediately. Students in Seoul, Istanbul, Minsk in Belarus, Samara in Russia, Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, Athens, and Muscat in Oman were most likely to take revenge by deducting points from other players -- and to give up a token themselves to do it.

"They didn't believe they did anything wrong," said economist Herbert Gintis at New Mexico's Santa Fe Institute. And because the spiteful freeloaders had no way of knowing who had punished them, they often took out their ire on those who helped others most, suspecting they must be to blame.

Such a readiness to retaliate, researchers said, reflected relatively lower levels of trust, civic cooperation and the rule of law as measured by social scientists in the World Values Survey, which periodically assesses basic values and beliefs in more than 80 societies. In countries with democratic market economies, peer pressure goaded people to cooperate. Among authoritarian societies or those dominated more by ties of kinship, freeloaders instead lashed out at those who censured them, the researchers found.

"The question is why?" said Harvard political economist Richard Zeckhauser.

No one is sure. The freeloaders might be angry at being trumped by strangers, or be unwilling to share with people they don't know. They also might believe they are being treated unfairly.

But social appearances and the good opinion of others do regulate our behavior. In the only other major cross-cultural study of this sort, Dr. Gintis and his colleagues several years ago examined 15 primitive societies of farmers, foragers, hunters and nomads in 12 countries, not unlike those in which humanity might have first evolved. The researchers found that these people all cared as much about fairness as the economic outcome of a trade. "They care about the ethical value of what they do," said Dr. Gintis.

Independent brain-imaging teams in Japan and the U.S. have shown just how valuable approval can be, as they reported in April in Neuron. Researchers at Japan's National Institute for Psychological Sciences found that when they watched the brain respond to reputation and social status, the excited synapses looked awfully familiar: They were the same ones activated by money.

Write to Robert Lee Hotz at sciencejournal@wsj.com

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