The Psychology of Human Cooperation

Course NameThe Psychology of Human Cooperation
Course CodePSY325 / PSY525
DescriptionCooperation is necessary to solve many of our pressing challenges – including depletion of natural resources, managing the COVID-19 pandemic, and effective policy making. By studying the psychological processes underlying cooperation we gain knowledge that can help us create environments and institutions which will be more successful in tackling the societal challenges. The main goal of the course is to introduce students to the psychological processes of human cooperation. This course draws on theories and empirical findings from social, cognitive and developmental psychology, and behavioural economics.
The course will address questions such as:
What are the evolutionary roots of human cooperation?
How does prosocial behavior develop in children?
What are the major strengths and weaknesses of human cooperation? Which factor supports inter- and intra-group cooperation?
What is the role of communication in cooperative behaviors?
How can our knowledge about game theory models improve decisions in public policy?
The course consists of three main sections.
Section 1 will explore the origins of human cooperation. It will introduce the basic evolutionary mechanisms (such as direct reciprocity, reputation, punishment etc.) and psychological mechanisms from a developmental and comparative perspective.
Section 2 will address psychological mechanisms of cooperation such as attention sharing, knowledge sharing and perspective taking. Both positive and negative motivational forces beyond cooperative behaviours will be discussed.
Section 3 will address challenges to cooperation, including cheating and exploitation. It will provide a brief introduction to game theory and will introduce the basic ideas behind the key concepts in game theory, such as equilibrium, rationality, and cooperation. Students will learn about strategies in games by actually playing and making decisions in various games. Additionally, Section 3 will demonstrate how some of the present challenges – overuse of freshwater, depletion of natural resources and managing the COVID-19 pandemic – can be analysed through game theory approach. We will discuss practical applications.
Learning OutcomesUpon Completion of this Course, students will gain knowledge and various skills and will be able to:
– Demonstrate understanding of basic terminology, concepts and principles of human cooperation;
– Recognize that human cooperation has multiple layers;
– Understand how scientists accumulate scientific knowledge about human cooperation through discovery, confirmation, and correction;
– Understand how psychology is applied to improving various areas including prosocial behavior and inter- and intra-group cooperation;
– Use Google Scholar to identify the relevant scientific articles for their questions about human cooperation;
– Evaluate how valuable the source and its contents are for answering questions about human cooperation;
– Communicate and collaborate with their classmates.
SchoolThe School of Humanities & Social Sciences 
LevelBachelor / Master
Number of credits (US / ECTS)3 US / 6 ECTS
PrerequisitesPSY150; HSS600