You might be wondering whether men or women are more cooperative. Because women are on average more concerned about maintaining positive relationships with others, whereas men are on average more self-concerned, it might be expected that women might be more likely to cooperate than men. And some research has supported this idea. For instance, in terms of whether or not people accepted an initial offer that was made to them or demanded more, Babcock, Gelfand, Small, and Stayn (2006) found that about half of the men they sampled negotiated a salary when they took their first job offer, whereas only about one-eighth of the women reported doing so. Not surprisingly, women received substantially lower average annual starting salaries than did the men, a fact that is likely to contribute to the wage gap between men and women. And Small, Gelfand, Babcock, and Gettman (2007) found that, overall, women were less likely than men to try to bargain for personal gain in an experimental task. Small and colleagues concluded that women felt that asking for things for themselves was socially inappropriate, perhaps because they perceive that they have less social power than do men.
But although some studies have found that there are gender differences, an interactionist approach to the situation is even more informative. It turns out that women compete less than men in some situations, but they compete about as much as men do in other situations. For example, Bowles, Babcock, and McGinn (2005) showed that the roles that are activated at the negotiation table (i.e., whether one is negotiating for oneself or on behalf of others) are important triggers for gender differences. Women negotiated as well as men when they were negotiating for others, but they negotiated less strongly than men did for themselves. And Kray, Galinsky, and Thompson (2002) showed that gender differences in negotiation behavior are strongly affected by cognitive constructs that are accessible during negotiation. In general, gender differences in negotiation seem to occur in situations in which other-concern is highly accessible but are reduced or eliminated in situations in which other-concern is less accessible (Gelfand, Major, Raver, Nishii, & O’Brien, 2006). A recent meta-analysis of 272 research studies (Baillet, Li, Macfarlan, & van Vugt, 2011) found that overall, men and women cooperated equally. But men cooperated more with other men than women cooperated with other women. In mixed-sex interactions, women were more cooperative than men.
And there are also cultural differences in cooperation, in a direction that would be expected. For instance, Gelfand et al. (2002) found that Japanese students—who are more interdependent and thus generally more other-concerned—were more likely to cooperate and achieved higher outcomes in a negotiation task than did students from the United States (who are more individualistic and self-oriented; Chen, Mannix, & Okumura, 2003).
- The behavior of individuals in conflict situations is frequently studied using laboratory games such as the prisoner’s dilemma game. Other types of laboratory games include resource dilemma games and the trucking game.
- Taken together, these games suggest that the most beneficial approach in social dilemmas is to maintain a balance between self-concern and other-concern.
- Individual differences in cooperation and competition, such as those proposed by the dual-concern model, show that individuals will relate to social dilemmas depending on their underlying personal orientations.
- Although women do compete less than men in some situations, they compete about as much as men do in other situations. There are cultural differences in cooperation.
Exercises and Critical Thinking
- Consider a time when you were in a type of social dilemma, perhaps with friends or family. How did your self-concern and other-concern lead you to resolve the dilemma?
- Review and critique the laboratory games that have been used to assess responses in social dilemmas. What are their strengths and the limitations?
Abele, S., Stasser, G., & Chartier, C. (2010). Conflict and coordination in the provision of public goods: A conceptual analysis of continuous and step-level games. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 14(4), 385–401. doi: 10.1177/1088868310368535
Babcock, L., Gelfand, M., Small, D., & Stayn, H. (Eds.). (2006). Gender differences in the propensity to initiate negotiations. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Balliet, C., Li, N. P., Macfarlan, S. J., & Van Vugt, M. (2011). Sex differences in cooperation: A meta-analytic review of social dilemmas. Psychological Bulletin, 137(6), 881-909.
Balliet, D., Parks, C., & Joireman, J. (2009). Social value orientation and cooperation in social dilemmas: A meta-analysis. Group Processes and Intergroup Relations, 12(4), 533–547.
Bowles, H. R., Babcock, L., & McGinn, K. L. (2005). Constraints and triggers: Situational mechanics of gender in negotiation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 89(6), 951–965.
Campbell, W. K., Bush, C. P., Brunell, A. B., & Shelton, J. (2005). Understanding the social costs of narcissism: The case of the tragedy of the commons. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 31(10), 1358–1368.
Chen, Y.-R., Mannix, E. A., & Okumura, T. (2003). The importance of who you meet: Effects of self- versus other-concerns among negotiators in the United States, the People’s Republic of China, and Japan. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 39(1), 1–15.
Deutsch, M., & Krauss, R. M. (1960). The effect of threat upon interpersonal bargaining. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 61, 181–189.
Edney, J. J. (1979). The nuts game: A concise commons dilemma analog. Environmental Psychology and Nonverbal Behavior, 3(4), 252–254.
Gelfand, M. J., Higgins, M., Nishii, L. H., Raver, J. L., Dominguez, A., Murakami, F.,…Toyama, M. (2002). Culture and egocentric perceptions of fairness in conflict and negotiation. Journal of Applied Psychology, 87(5), 833–845.
Gelfand, M. J., Major, V. S., Raver, J. L., Nishii, L. H., & O’Brien, K. (2006). Negotiating relationally: The dynamics of the relational self in negotiations. Academy of Management Review, 31(2), 427–451.
Hardin, G. (1968). The tragedy of the commons. Science, 162(3859), 1243–1248.
Kay, A. C., Wheeler, S. C., Bargh, J. A., & Ross, L. (2004). Material priming: The influence of mundane physical objects on situational construal and competitive behavioral choice. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 95(1), 83–96. doi: 10.1016/j.obhdp.2004.06.003.
Kray, L. J., Galinsky, A. D., & Thompson, L. (2002). Reversing the gender gap in negotiations: An exploration of stereotype regeneration. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 87(2), 386–409.
Lawler, E. J., Ford, R. S., & Blegen, M. A. (1988). Coercive capability in conflict: A test of bilateral deterrence versus conflict spiral theory. Social Psychology Quarterly, 51(2), 93–107.
Poundstone, W. (1992). Prisoner’s dilemma. New York, NY: Doubleday.
Pruitt, D. G., & Rubin, J. Z. (1986). Social conflict: Escalation, stalemate, and settlement. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Ross, L., & Ward, A. (1995). Psychological barriers to dispute resolution. Advances in experimental social psychology, 27, 255–304. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=psyh&AN=2003-02325-006&site=ehost-live
Sagiv, L., Sverdlik, N., & Schwarz, N. (2011). To compete or to cooperate? Values’ impact on perception and action in social dilemma games. European Journal of Social Psychology, 41(1), 64–77.
Shomer, R. W., Davis, A. H., & Kelley, H. H. (1966). Threats and the development of coordination: Further studies of the Deutsch and Krauss trucking game. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 4, 119–126.
Small, D. A., Gelfand, M., Babcock, L., & Gettman, H. (2007). Who goes to the bargaining table? The influence of gender and framing on the initiation of negotiation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 93(4), 600–613.
Utz, S. (2004). Self-activation is a two-edged sword: The effects of I primes on cooperation. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 40(6), 769–776.
Van Lange, P. A. M. (1999). The pursuit of joint outcomes and equality in outcomes: An integrative model of social value orientations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77, 337–349.
Van Lange, P. A. M., & Kuhlman, D. M. (1994). Social value orientations and impressions of partner’s honesty and intelligence: A test of the might versus morality effect. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 67(1), 126–141.
Vohs, K. D., Mead, N. L., & Goode, M. R. (2006). The psychological consequences of money. Science, 314(5802), 1154–1156. doi: 10.1126/science.1132491
Weber, J. M., & Messick, D. M. (2004). Conflicting interests in social life: Understanding social dilemma dynamics. In M. J. Gelfand & J. M. Brett (Eds.), The handbook of negotiation and culture (pp. 374–394). Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press.