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Cooperation and conflict: field experiments in Northern Ireland

Silva, AS; Mace, R; (2014) Cooperation and conflict: field experiments in Northern Ireland. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences , 281 (1792) , Article 20141435. 10.1098/rspb.2014.1435. Green open access

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The idea that cohesive groups, in which individuals help each other, have a competitive advantage over groups composed of selfish individuals has been widely suggested as an explanation for the evolution of cooperation in humans. Recent theoretical models propose the coevolution of parochial altruism and intergroup conflict, when in-group altruism and out-group hostility contribute to the group's success in these conflicts. However, the few empirical attempts to test this hypothesis do not use natural groups and conflate measures of in-group and unbiased cooperative behaviour. We conducted field experiments based on naturalistic measures of cooperation (school/charity donations and lost letters' returns) with two religious groups with an on-going history of conflict-Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland. Conflict was associated with reduced donations to out-group schools and the return of out-group letters, but we found no evidence that it influences in-group cooperation. Rather, socio-economic status was the major determinant of cooperative behaviour. Our study presents a challenge to dominant perspectives on the origins of human cooperation, and has implications for initiatives aiming to promote conflict resolution and social cohesion.

Type: Article
Title: Cooperation and conflict: field experiments in Northern Ireland
Location: England
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2014.1435
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2014.1435
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © 2014 The Authors. Published by the Royal Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/, which permits unrestricted use, provided the original author and source are credited.
Keywords: evolution of cooperation, intergroup conflict, parochial altruism, real-world measure
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Anthropology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1448362
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