Fairness and Other Basic Drives

Alford, John R., & Hibbing, John R. (2006). The Neural Basis of Representative Democracy. Paper presented at the Hendricks Conference on Biology, Evolution, and Political Behavior.

Larimer, Christopher W., Hannagan, Rebecca, & Smith, Kevin B. (2006) Balancing Ambition and Gender Among Decision Makers. Paper presented at the Hendricks Conference on Biology, Evolution, and Political Behavior

Price, Michael E. (2004). Judgements about cooperators and freeriders on a Shuar work team: An evolutionary psychological perspective. Organization Behavior and Human Decision Processes 101 20-35.

Wolak, Jennifer & Marcus, Geroge. 2006. Personality and Emotional Response: Strategic and Tactical Response to Changing Political Circumstances. Paper presented at the Hendricks Conference on Biology, Evolution, and Political Behavior.

Another batch of articles related to the Hendricks Symposium. Notes and stuff is below the fold, but on top is a neat psychological survey given to a hyper-violent, essentially stone-age population in South America.

How would you answer the questions?

Imagine that a community is going to have a minga to build a system of pipes that will bring running water up to the houses of the people in the community. But, there are only enough pipes to bring water to half of the community. Only the houses that are closest to the river are within reach of the pipes.

This picture demonstrates what the pipe system will look like after the minga is finished. The river is drawn in blue, the pipes in red, and the houses in black. So, only half of the community will receive running water as the result of this minga. That is, only half of the community will benefit directly as the result of this minga.

A lot of hard work is involved in this minga, so the minga will last 2 days. In order to complete this minga in 2 days, the help of all socios in the community is needed. Imagine that only the first day of the minga has been completed. The first day of the minga lasted 9 hours. Some of the citizens (socios) in the community worked all day in this minga, but other citizens worked for fewer hours. I am going to show you pictures of citizens who participated in the first day of the minga, along with two pieces of information about each of these people: (1) whether or not they will receive improved access to water as the result of this minga, that is, how much they will benefit as the result of the minga, and (2) how much they have sacrificed in the minga, that is, how many hours they worked in the first day of the minga. The pail of water in each picture represents the extent to which each person will benefit as the result of the minga. [SHOW PICTURE]. For example, this person lives close to the river, in reach of the pipe system that will be constructed in the minga. So, he will receive a lot of running water as the result of the minga. That is why there is a picture of a full pail of water here. This full pail of water represents that this man will benefit a lot as a result of this minga. [SHOW PICTURE]. This person, however, will not benefit much from the minga, because he lives far from the river, too far for the pipes to reach. That is why there is a picture of an almost-empty pail of water here. This almost-empty pail of water represents that this man will not benefit much as a result of this minga.

The circle in each picture represents how many hours each person has worked in the minga so far. [SHOW PICTURE]. For example, this person worked for the entire first day of the minga—he worked for nine hours. That is why 3/4 of the circle is filled in, and why there is a number “9” drawn next to the circle; this represents that the person worked for 9h in the minga. [SHOW PICTURE]. This person, however, has worked for only 3 h in the minga so far. That is why only 1/4 of the circle is filled in, and why there is a number “3” drawn next to the circle; this represents that the person has worked for only 3 h in the minga.

[MAKE SURE SYMBOL MEANINGS ARE UNDERSTOOD].

Now, I am going to show you pictures of 2 of the minga participants, and tell you how much they will beneWt as the result of the minga, and how long they have worked in the minga so far. Then I will ask you:

1. Which one of the people deserves more respect, based on his participation in the minga?

2. If you were the leader of this community, and you could decide whether citizens should be punished based on their participation in the minga, which of these people would you think should be punished? (Price 26,34)


According to this theory, humans are social creatures who depend on groups for assistance in provisioning, offspring-rearing, protection against predators, and a host of other useful and even necessary tasks (see Wilson, 1975). (Alford & Hibbing 3)

In short, humans tend to possess the genetic, neurological, and behavioral machinery to nurture groups and to monitor and protect their own status within the group (see Tooby and Cosmides, 1992; Sober and Wilson, 1998; Ostrom, 1998). (Alford & Hibbing 3)

It is not just that the pain or pleasure of others we observe is reflected in our own central nervous system but rather that our understanding of the cause of the pleasure or pain affects the extent to which we are moved by the experiences of others. (Alford & Hibbing 4)

In many respect, the most sensible way for nature to build a social creature is not simply to select for creatures with empathy but to select for creatures who have even stronger empathic reactions when they have agency over others experiences. A social unit works best not when its members are walking around hoping good things happen to their fellow group members but rather when they are actively taking steps to make good things happen to their compatriots in the group (Alford & Hibbing 5)

Certainly there is overwhelming evidence that individuals playing economic games are incredibly sensitive to others involved. If the “others” are computers, people play (and brains operate) differently than if the others are human beings (McCabe et al., 2001). If the others are anonymous abstractions, people play differently than if they are personified, even if this personification consists of nothing more than cartoonish eye-spots placed at the top of a computer screen (Haley and Fessler, 2005; more generally, see Sullivan and Masters, 1988; Masters and Sullivan, 1989; Dawes, van de Kragt, and Orbell, 1990; Blount, 1995). If subjects know that others will learn of their decisions, people play differently (Hoffman, McCabe, Shachat, and Smith, 2000; van Dijk and Vermunt, 2000; Larimer, 2003). If the others are believed to have intentionally rather than accidentally made a decision, people behave differently (Hibbing and Alford, 2004). And if the others are believed to be ambitious, people behave differently toward them even when the objective decisions are the same (Smith, Larimer, Littvay, and Hibbing, 2007). (Alford & Hibbing 6)

And modern empirical political scientists have conducted extensive research on the extent to which the decisions of representatives are congruent with the preferences of their constituents or principals. The classic work in this vein was undertaken by Warren Miller and Donald Stokes (1963) and they found that policy congruence was present for some salient issues such as race and, to a lesser extent, social welfare, but not for less salient issues such as foreign policy. (Alford & Hibbing 7)

Those subjects assigned to play the standard dictator game—that is, those assigned to make decisions for themselves—were reasonably generous with nearly 54 percent dividing the money equally and just 46.2 percent keeping more than half for themselves. Consistent with countless other experiments employing economic games (see Ostrom, 1998; Camerer and Loewenstein, 2004, for a good summaries), people tend to be less maximizing, even in anonymous one-shot games, than standard microeconomic theory predicts. (Alford & Hibbing 11)

When the constituent is not made tangible or given any social reality, subjects serving as representatives are less likely to keep more than half of the money for their constituent than was the case for subjects deciding on their own behalf. Only 26.7 percent of respondents kept more than half for an anonymous constituent. But any inclination for representatives to be less generous to constituents than people are to themselves disappears if the representative and constituent have met. When the representative has a face to attach to the constituent, representatives, as we expected, become much more likely to be at least as solicitous of the interest of their constituent as they were of their own interest. Over 62 percent of the subjects in this category awarded more than half of the $10 to their constituents. This difference in behavior depending upon whether the decision was for “self” or for a known constituent does not reach statistical significance, and even though subjects deciding on behalf of a known constituent are more likely to keep over half than are subjects deciding for themselves. (Alford & Hibbing 12)

More striking is the fact that with only a brief introduction, the willingness to perform an effortful task to benefit a constituent is as high as the willingness to perform the same task to benefit oneself. Again, this is true even though there are no institutional arrangements to bind representatives’ behavior to constituents’ interests. In fact, adding the possibility of reelection to the instructions given to the representative that had already been given the brief introduction to their constituents did not provide any increase in effort on the behalf of the constituent. (Alford & Hibbing 15)

Anonymous constituents would ask their representatives to do as much for them as subjects acting for themselves do (means are 5.57 and 5.54 respectively). Introduced constituents in contrast moderate their request and ask for less than the subjects acting for themselves (means are 4.81 and 5.54 respectively). The result is that anonymous representatives are on average agreeing to do substantially fewer mazes than their constituents’ would prefer (3.86 compared to the mean constituent preference of 5.57, prob. .072). The reverse is true for introduced pairs, where the mean number of mazes completed at 5.50 is actually above the mean number that constituents would have requested at 4.81 mazes (prob. .531). (Alford & Hibbing 16)

More systematically, congressional scholars repeatedly find that citizens’ main objection to members of Congress is not the policies they are producing, but rather the perception that they are in office because they crave power, that they are using the office as a way to further their own self-interest (Hibbing and Theiss-Morse 2002, 1995). (Larimer, Hannagan, and Smith 3)

We distinguish between positive ambition (associated with competence, and a desire to carry out multiple responsibilities and serve communal goals) and negative ambition (an individualistic craving for power). Decisions made by policy makers characterized by negative ambition, we argue, triggers mistrust and a loss of legitimacy, and prompts predictable behavioral responses from those affected by the decisions. This is an argument with extensive empirical support in anthropology, where negative ambition cues are referred to as “big man” behavior. Responses to big man behavior are consistent cross culturally and are generally seen as a product of a universal human predisposition that evolved to deal with the adaptive problems of group living (Boehm 1999). (Larimer, Hannagan, and Smith 3-4)

There is a strong empirical case to support the claim that a deep-rooted aversion to power-seeking in leaders is an innate, universal human behavioral predisposition. (Larimer, Hannagan, and Smith 5)

Generally speaking, males dominate social hierarchies and, as far as can be told, have always dominated social hierarchies (Pratto 1996: 179). Compared to females, both the psychological and anthropological research literatures agree that males are much more oriented towards status and dominance hierarchies. (Larimer, Hannagan, and Smith 6)

Groups are broadly recognized as providing key fitness advantages to humans, and human psychology unsurprisingly has evolved to deal with complex social environments; politics itself is rooted in the “groupishness” of humans and their socially-oriented minds (Hibbing and Alford 2004; Massey 2002). (Larimer, Hannagan, and Smith 7)

Unfortunately, this empirical research focuses solely on the self-reported ambitions of decision-makers themselves, ignoring how people react to the personal ambitions of officeholders and office seekers. Given the argument we present here, this omission is significant, especially given findings on trait inferences suggesting political leaders exhibiting “power-hungry” behavior (Kinder et al. 1980) or lacking “humbleness” (Miller, Wattenberg, and Malanchuk 1986) are viewed negatively (Larimer, Hannagan, and Smith 10)

Using a public goods scenario, Van Vugt et al. (2004) attempt to determine whether the characteristics of group leaders affect the likelihood of group abandonment. The authors find that people are significantly more likely to exit the group given an autocratic leader, e.g. one in which the leader uses individual discretion in deciding who will contribute, compared to a group with a democratic leader, i.e. one in which contribution to the public good is voluntary… In fact, Van Vugt et al. conclude that “fewer members might have exited the autocratically led groups if their members had been elected or appointed on merit” (11). In short, it is not only how leaders exercise power that affects group behavior, but also the means through which leaders attain power. (Larimer, Hannagan, and Smith 11)

Hibbing and Alford (2004) find that the means through which a leader attains power can also affect political behavior. Using ultimatum bargaining games, Hibbing and Alford find that people tend to be more accepting of decisions in which the decision maker “earned” power rather than obtained power through desire or random processes. (Larimer, Hannagan, and Smith 11-12)

Hibbing and Alford’s, and Van Vugt et al.’s (2004) experiments are consistent with our arguments in that they suggest people respond to the style of leadership as much as the quality of the outcome they receive in social dilemmas. In particular, the exercise of power and the means through which one attains power affects whether people accept or reject an unfavorable outcome. Put simply, people have a strong aversion to decision processes that violate the norm of fairness, and tend to assume that leaders seen as ambitious for power are self-serving and non-neutral, and therefore likely to take advantage of others, thus violating the norm of fairness (Larimer, Hannagan, and Smith 12)

Research on gender and trait inferences overwhelmingly show that people use gender stereotypes to assume the traits of political decision makers (Alexander and Anderson 1993; Huddy and Terkildsen 1993; Sanbonmatsu 2002; see also Shapiro 2003). There is also a broad experimental research literature demonstrating that males and females behave differently in decision making situations —for example, as legislators (see Kennedy 2003), and with regard to styles of leadership (Rosenthal 1998). (Larimer, Hannagan, and Smith 12)

Following this division, subjects were asked a series of questions about the decision, the decision making group as a whole, and individuals within the decision making group. Importantly, all participants were debriefed and given the maximum number of extra credit points following the experiment. Thus, each participant’s final grade was not dependent on decisions made during the experiment. (Larimer, Hannagan, and Smith 14)

Subjects who guess the first decision maker is female are significantly less likely to identify this decision maker as the one most likely to be selfinterested (p < .10). In other words, gender and ambition interact to influence perceptions of self-interestedness. While both ambitious and unambitious males are viewed as highly likely to engage in self-serving behavior, unambitious females are considered less likely to do so when compared to unambitious males. (Larimer, Hannagan, and Smith 18)

On a more local level, think about Jane Mansbridge’s (1980) analysis of participatory democracy. People who speak up at local meetings to voice their opinion tend to be viewed negatively and with suspicion by others. From the perspective of others sitting quietly, overt displays of opinion may be seen as a sign of upstartism. In fact, one of the evolutionary outcomes of patrilocal group living, where females rather than males disperse into non-kin groups, is that a dominant female survival strategy is to seek to abide by group norms and avoid “sticking out” (Campbell 2002, 117-118). (Larimer, Hannagan, and Smith 23)

King goes on to argue that the experimental method is “impossible” to apply to the study of the effects of candidate traits. What King seems to be confusing however, is the difference between field experiments and laboratory experiments. While King is correct that reconstructing an election with the same candidates but different traits would be impossible, laboratory experiments provide a useful and simplistic method for assessing how variation in candidate traits affect political behavior. In a lab setting, it is possible to control for all external influences while manipulating a single explanatory variable; in this case the trait of the candidate or decision maker. (Larimer, Hannagan, and Smith 23-24)

In particular, Scholz and Scholz and Lubell (1998) examine compliance with tax policy. People tend to be more likely to comply with existing tax regulations if they perceive both government and citizens as trustworthy, both of which are independent of fear of government punishment for noncompliance. (Larimer, Hannagan, and Smith 24)

Collective actions are common in human social life (Ostrom, 1990), including in organizational contexts (Albanese & Van Fleet, 1985; Goren, Kurzban, & Rapoport, 2003): for example, members of a work team who jointly design some new product, and whose efforts bring rewards to all team members. (Price 20)

If each member receives an equal share of the between that the group produces, no matter how much that member contributed to the production effort, then each member has a private incentive to contribute less than co-members (Price 20)

Research suggests that people often solve freerider problems by directing social benefits towards cooperators, and/or by imposing social costs on freeriders (Andreoni, Harbaugh, & Vesterlund, 2003; Fehr & Gächter, 2000; Hawkes, 1993; Patton, 2000; Price, 2003, 2006; Price, Cosmides, & Tooby, 2002; Yamagishi, 1986). (Price 21)

Exploitation avoidance In order for cooperation to evolve, the benefits of cooperation must be preferentially directed towards cooperators, rather than towards freeriders… First, it can occur via positive assortment, if cooperators assort into cooperative interactions with other cooperators… Second, exploitation avoidance can occur via reciprocal altruism, if interactants cooperate only to the extent that they observe cointeractants to cooperate (Trivers, 1971). (Price 21-22)

Negative judgments and punishments directed at freeriders might be eVorts not to coerce them into contributing, but rather to harm them, and thereby reduce their advantage (Price et al., 2002; see also Fehr & Schmidt, 1999). From this perspective, negative judgments of freeriders should be made mainly by cooperators, because it is cooperators who will be disadvantaged relative to freeriders. As noted above, evidence does suggest that people who cooperate more are more punitive towards freeriders. (Price 22)

Specifically, they suggest that X will more likely be punished, the more X’s contribution deviates negatively from the group average contribution (Fehr & Gächter, 2000; Masclet, Noussair, Tucker, & Villeval, 2003), or from the contribution of the punishing individual (Falk et al., 2005; Masclet et al., 2003). (Price 23)

Thus, an absence’s excusability depends on whether it is considered to have been intentional, and as in industrialized societies, accidental non-cooperativeness is not considered freeriding (Price, 2006). (Price 24)

First, when judging between unequally-contributing workers, all subjects—regardless of age, sex, or minga participation frequency—tended to judge the higher-contributor more positively. Second, when judging between equally-contributing unequally-benefiting workers, male subjects who more frequently participated in mingas were more likely to favor altruists and disfavor freeriders. Third, when judging between equally-contributing unequally between workers, subjects who were female and therefore infrequent minga participants, tended to favor freeriders while disfavoring altruists. (Price 30)

Given the apparent relationship between pro-cooperativeness and minga participation, the tendency of Shuar females to make judgments that were the opposite of those of the cañicultores may be interpretable as follows. Shuar females rarely participate in mingas, which suggests that they should also be less likely to judge workers in terms of teamwork-relevant attributes. Therefore they may default to assessing workers in terms of their desirability as allies and/or mates, and focus on their ability to procure resources. (Price 32)

In the vast variety of cultures in which human mate preferences have been studied, females are consistently more likely than males to rank access to resources as an important mate attribute. (Price 32)

The most unambiguous result of the above study, and the one that is most clearly consistent with data about group cooperation in many industrialized societies (Fehr & Gächter, 2000; Falk et al., 2005; Masclet et al., 2003; Yamagishi, 1986), is that when workers to a team project are judged based on contribution level, higher-contributors are judged more positively and lower-contributors are judged more negatively. The evolutionary theory discussed above presents plausible reasons to expect that Homo sapiens should be psychologically adapted to judge group members in these ways, and therefore that humans from all cultures, even cultures that are vastly diVerent from one another in some respects, should display such judgments. (Price 32)

The prediction that subjects who more frequently cooperate will be more likely to favor cooperators and disfavor freeriders has also been confirmed in previous studies (Fehr & Gächter, 2002; Price, 2005; Price et al., 2002; Shinada et al., 2004), and received some support in the above study. (Price 32)

If more cooperative members are relatively judgmental about the extent of cooperative behavior exhibited by co-members, then knowledge of this eVect could be applied in useful ways. For example, one might attempt to improve morale on a work team by expelling ‘negative’ members who hold unfavorable opinions of co-members. However, the above study suggests that such a remedy could be disastrous: if the negative judgments are directed towards low cooperators, than negative members may also be the most cooperative members, and therefore the last members that one would want to expel. (Price 32-33)

For example, compared to females, males appear both to experience more pleasure and less empathy when seeing non-cooperators punished (Singer et al., 2006), and also to punish non-cooperators more ‘on principle’, that is, with less concern for the economic impact that such punishment will have on themselves (Eckel & Grossman, 1996). (Price 33)

According to the theory of affective intelligence, people respond to political situations via a dual system of emotional appraisal (Marcus, Neuman, and MacKuen 2000). These preconscious appraisals precede and modify downstream affective, cognitive, and behavioral responses. Thus, affective states are swift modulations that express these appraisals, and initiate decision-making routes appropriate to the tactical demands of the moment. (Wolak & Marcus 3)

We have argued elsewhere (Marcus 2002) as have others (Sanders 1997; Young 2000) against the notion that each and every political decision needs to be the result of a deliberative process in order to secure a legitimate authoritative result (Gutmann 1996). First, this requirement presumes that deliberative decision-making mechanisms are always superior to more automatic processes, a claim that is generally false (Bargh and Chartrand 1999; Bargh and Ferguson 2000). Second, the proclamation of deliberation as the sole determinant of citizenship competence obscures the distinction between familiar circumstances wherein previously mastered routines offer speed of execution and predictability of result, and unfamiliar circumstances where habituated responses are likely to produce unreliable and potentially disastrous results. (Wolak & Marcus 4)

Previous research suggests that differences in issue framing have only a modest effect on emotional response (Wolak et al. 2003). Issue content and individual differences in the direction and intensity of prior preferences appear to play a more important role in explaining emotional response. (Wolak & Marcus 4-5)

While good citizenship can be learned, some are perhaps more predisposed to support such principles than others. Personality has not been at the forefront of most research into political behavior (though see Sniderman 1975). Still there is a modest body of research worth noting. Personality differences can drive candidate evaluations and party preferences (Caprara et al. 1999; 2006), and genetic dispositions can influence ideological leanings (Alford, Funk, and Hibbing 2005). (Wolak & Marcus 6)

Extroverts are outgoing and optimistic, more likely to emotionally expressive and interested in political participation than reserved, introverted individuals. (Wolak & Marcus 9)

While we expected those high on neuroticism to be more sensitive to policy change and more likely to have their surveillance systems activated, we find no significant differences in anxiety by level of neuroticism… While extroversion has no effect on anxiety among those facing challenging policies, extroverted individuals faced with a favorable policy change do see a decrease in levels of anxiety. Authoritarian predispositions have no significant influence on levels of issue anxiety for those viewing either reassuring or challenging stimuli.4 On the whole, personality differences play only a modest role in the activation of the emotional surveillance system, and these traits operate differently depending on whether circumstances challenge support prior preferences (Wolak & Marcus 12)

For those who read about policies that support personal preferences, personality traits fail to have a significant effect on levels of policy aversion. Under the condition of policy challenge, however, the association between personality and policy anger is more substantial. Authoritarianism fails to be a significant predictor of anger, but neuroticism, extroversion, and openness all predict policy aversion. Neuroticism and extroversion are positively associated with anger. (Wolak & Marcus 12)

Overall, personality traits do affect emotional engagement in policy issues, but only to a limited degree. The greatest effects of personality are in the generation of policy anger in the face of policy threats. (Wolak & Marcus 13)

We also find significant direct effects of personality on citizenship behavior beyond its contribution via emotional engagement. (Wolak & Marcus 15)

Moving from the lowest to the highest level of anxiety predicts an increase of interest in one additional political act, all else equal. Here, we find no significant effects for anger or enthusiasm on interest in participation once we control from trait differences and variations in issue strength and salience. Personality traits like openness and extroversion also have little effect on the willingness to consider political action. (Wolak & Marcus 16)

We also find a number of personality differences in the willingness to endorse policy compromise. Those high in authoritarianism support convention, and here resist policy compromise. Those with the lowest level authoritarianism are predicted to support compromise 80% of the time in the face of policy challenge, all else equal. (Wolak & Marcus 17)