Multidimensional trust

Seems like an important paper – which I’ve not read yet.

Trustworthy by Convention, By: M. Bigoni, S. Bortolotti, M. Casari, D. Gambetta, URL: http://d.repec.org/n?u=RePEc:bol:bodewp:wp827&r=evo

Social life offers innumerable instances in which trust relations involve multiple agents. In an experiment, we study a new setting called Collective Trust Game where there are multiple trustees, who may have an incentive to coordinate their actions. Trustworthiness has also a strategic motivation, and the trusters’ decision depends upon their beliefs about the predominant convention with regard to trustworthiness. In this respect, the Collective Trust Games offers a richer pattern of behavior than dyadic games. We report that the levels of trustworthiness are almost thirty percentage points higher when strategic motivations are present rather than not. Higher levels of trustworthiness also led to higher levels of trust. Moreover, strategic motives appear as a major drive for trustees, comparable in size to positive reciprocity, and more important than concerns for equality.

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Dennis Argall
9 years ago

We are blinded by the persistence of Darwinian and neo-Darwinian thinking in the teaching and practice of commerce and economics as also in junior areas of science.

When in fact the front edge of evolutionary biology long ago accepted Lynn Margulis’s argument that it is collaboration rather than competition that has led to the greatest advances in evolution.

The need to argue elaborate cases for ‘trust’ as some kind of artefact would diminish if it could be understood that at the core of life processes it is collaboration which has been important in getting us to this poin.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/25/science/lynn-margulis-trailblazing-theorist-on-evolution-dies-at-73.html
http://digitaljournal.com/article/321533
http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/history_24

I suppose it’s much easier to put competition into modelling than is collaboration. Is it?

Tel
Tel
9 years ago
Reply to  Dennis Argall

The self-proclaimed “front edge of evolutionary biology” are still out there searching for altruism, except they needed to invent “reciprocal altruism” in order to be able to find anything. They are yet to realize that the economists got there long ago, and the common name for “reciprocal altruism” is just plain ordinary trade.

As for “greatest advances in evolution”, that’s a highly subjective metric, there’s a lot of bacteria out there (beating humans in total number of organisms, total mass of organisms, and diversity on top of that), although there are examples of coordinated behaviour amongst bacteria, they generally do pretty well as individual cells. Darwin is quite clear about defining failure, but a bit fuzzy on the definition of success.

Being human, I’m personally more interested in what might be useful to humans, but I’m not silly enough to believe my personal point of view necessarily implies a universal discovery. As it happens, I am interested in trade, because it is useful to me, and because it’s a common feature of pretty much all complex social life forms. Isn’t that the one big discovery of Economics though? That a system of trade is what allows individuals to build complex collaborative structures. Of course we can quibble over implementation details, but that’s the core of it.

Getting back to the subject at hand though, it is very difficult to have a system of trade without some system for maintaining and evaluating trust.

desipis
9 years ago
Reply to  Tel

Trade isn’t “reciprocal altruism”. It’s simply what occurs when there’s an coincidental alignment of selfish interests.

Tel
Tel
9 years ago
Reply to  desipis

That’s what “reciprocal altruism” means when a biologist uses the phrase. They don’t use “altruism” to mean what a normal dictionary would list, they converted it into a specialised technical word. This makes it confusing when trying to link with already established moral arguments, but there’s historic reasons which are kind of difficult to undo in retrospect.

The only way to make sense of it is to work over a bunch of examples.

desipis
9 years ago
Reply to  desipis

Reciprocal altruism is a behaviour whereby an organism acts in a manner that temporarily reduces its fitness while increasing another organism’s fitness, with the expectation that the other organism will act in a similar manner at a later time.”

That describes something more akin to a partnership than a mere trade. I’d argue that if there’s an economic concept of ‘reciprocal altruism’, it would need to include contributing to something that one has no control over or can expect any direct (or certain) return from.

A simple trade of a seller selling to a buyer would not suffice to fit ‘reciprocal altruism’. An example I’d use would be the seller waiving payment for a buyer with cash flow problems, on the (non-binding) expectation that the buyer would therefore be able to continue to buy from the seller in the future.

Tel
Tel
9 years ago
Reply to  desipis

Yeah, and I’m in “partnership” with the bank that holds my mortgage. Since we are partners and all, a few missed payments should go down just fine I guess.

desipis
9 years ago
Reply to  desipis

I’m not sure what your point is. I would consider a mortgage from a bank neither a partnership, nor reciprocal altruism.

conrad
conrad
9 years ago
Reply to  Tel

‘”The self-proclaimed “front edge of evolutionary biology” are still out there searching for altruism’

Altruism is easy to find — do you really expect some gain next time you help some old lady cross the road that you’ll never meet again, be nice to you cousins etc. . If not, then you are displaying alturism with no expectations of reciprocity.

Tel
Tel
9 years ago
Reply to  conrad

Of course I expect a gain when helping members of my family, read up on “kin selection” for starters (it was long ago genetically hard-wired so the genes expect a gain even when you don’t notice) but in a human context there’s far more opportunities for my family to reciprocate so if I’m going to be generous to anyone, then by far the biggest probability of a return would be to keep it amongst family and moderately close friends.

I don’t help little old ladies across the road, if they don’t really need my help then I’d just be condescending and annoying to them, if they do really need my help then I can’t help them all the time so that’s a bigger problem than I can deal with.

I do sometimes carry heavy gear for people up the steps at the train station, but only if I’m going that direction anyhow. I figure that the time cost to me is so close to zero that trying to calculate exactly what the cost is, would already be a higher cost in itself. If other people see me carrying gear, then they also do it on a semi-regular basis and so the whole flow of people is more efficient for everybody (including myself).

I think there’s a lot of situations (like honesty for example) where you do it because you feel that everyone should do it and it would be hypocritical to make a special exception. I like to get the correct change in a shop, and I usually point out when I notice a mistake (even if the mistake is in my favour). In the scheme of things, those little bits of change aren’t going to make a difference to my life in any significant way, but having a working system where all parties are habitually honest will make a big difference. I see it as promoting an idea, that happens to be an idea I approve of, rather than attempting to count up all the tiny bits and pieces where I might have made a small gain by doing things differently.

john walker
john walker
9 years ago
Reply to  Dennis Argall

Dennis

one of the ‘great advances’ was the rapid radiation of mammals marsupial and placental between 60 and 30 million years ago. It was caused by “cooperation” between the earth and a large piece of space rock . With respect casually combining “advances” with “evolution” shows a lack of understanding of evolution.

conrad
conrad
9 years ago

Looks like I’d better start reading the strategic motives that management where I work sends around constantly (which usually don’t include their own motives, like getting a promotion etc.), or at least look at the arrows.

The real problem in trying to interpret this is that most businesses have essentially the same strategic motive, especially ones that lend you money, and it can be summed up rather easily:”make money”.

Mike Pepperday
Mike Pepperday
9 years ago

Dennis:
“The need to argue elaborate cases for ‘trust’ as some kind of artefact would diminish if it could be understood that at the core of life processes it is collaboration which has been important in getting us to this point.”

I also think such experimenting is dopey. I tried to read the article but it is a deadly bore and for the life of me I couldn’t figure out what it was the subjects were actually doing. The “need” is to EXPLAIN the trust, which in fact such statistical experiments can never do – and the countless thousands of such “experiments” have contributed next to nothing toward understanding. They’d be more persuasive if they wrote a computer program that could lick Tit-for-tat by their claimed 30% margin.

Competition is the logic so there does arise a need to explain why people might be nice to each other. Symbiosis is rampant in biological life; everyone knows it and has known long it before Margulis. Cooperation ditto. Given Darwin, how could this arise? Dawkins explained it well in The Selfish Gene.

I don’t know about the trickle now becoming a flood. It’s a long time coming. Kropotkin was saying it in the nineteenth century. The people who submit theses which tend toward the Lamarckian WANT to believe it. Although it is a question of fact, not opinion, people see it, like climate change, as something to “believe in.”

For example, Dennis, your second link discusses Margulis:
“She did reintroduce what some consider a “Lamarckian” concept, arguing that since behavior (for example, eating) can lead to genome acquisition, what organisms do in their lifetimes can have an effect on the kinds of genomic change they can pass on to their descendants.”

One reads this sort of thing every now and again. How could it work? It would mean that in mammals (and others) females would have a 25% influence on their descendants and males would have 50%. Until someone presents some very clear arguments, I will not accept that nature would work that way.

Why 25% and 50%? Given Lamarck, the food a male eats would go to his gametes and have a 50% influence on his offspring. A female’s gametes were all formed before she was born so her food could only influence the gametes of her unborn child via the placenta. Thus a female could influence the genome of her grandchildren – in which she has a 25% stake. Moreover, since these putatively useful genome changes are not in her children, they do not benefit from them as the male’s genome changes would.

So those who would promote Lamarck need to do some explaining.

We know the reason why the right rejects climate change – they see it as costing money. What is the reason the left maintains a rearguard action against Darwin?

Tel
Tel
9 years ago
Reply to  Mike Pepperday

“A female’s gametes were all formed before she was born so her food could only influence the gametes of her unborn child via the placenta.”

Formed but not developed, it is at least in theory possible that out of a diverse spectrum of cells, some are selectively chosen by lifestyle. If that’s the case though, we must presume that this selection mechanism was itself the product of earlier random iterations (i.e. there is no reason to believe that evolution works strictly in generational cycles, nor any particular cycles).

Mike Pepperday
Mike Pepperday
9 years ago

I think this new blog format is unsatisfactory. How is someone who casually checks this thread to see that there are new comments to it? It appears as if the last comment was the one by Tel above this yet there have been many since. Are people supposed to go hunting through and look at the dates and times to see whether someone has added something that they don’t recall having seen before?

If I wished to tell the reader, right now, where those new comments are, how would I refer to them?

I’m sorry but I think this format is stifling discussion. Jacques probably went to a lot of trouble to set it up but it is surely better to have a simple sequence with each comment numbered.

Dan
Dan
9 years ago
Reply to  Mike Pepperday

Agreed.

john walker
john walker
9 years ago
Reply to  Dan

agree

desipis
9 years ago
Reply to  Mike Pepperday

I don’t mind it so much. It was a bit disorentating at first, having been used to the old format. However it does have its benefits, particularly in how it helps split up the conversation when you have different people going off on different tangents.

It might be an idea to have a preference though, where you can choose to view the comments as either old or new format (although still with a reply button on each comment even in the old format). Being able to view comments purely in chronological order does have its benefits.

Julie Thomas
Julie Thomas
9 years ago

Tel says “The self-proclaimed “front edge of evolutionary biology” are still out there searching for altruism, except they needed to invent “reciprocal altruism” in order to be able to find anything. They are yet to realize that the economists got there long ago, and the common name for “reciprocal altruism” is just plain ordinary trade.”

Tel, who are these biologists who are the self-proclaimed front edge? You can’t be talking about E.O Wilson, who argues that the tendency toward cooperation and collaboration that has powered our spectacular success as a species is explained not by kin selection — in which evolution favors the genes of individuals who sacrifice themselves for the sake of relatives — but by group selection, the tendency of evolution to favor groups that work together altruistically, beyond what might be predicted by simple genetic relatedness.”

This is a real about face for Wilson who was criticised for his first book on evolutionary biology and had a pitcher of water dumped on him for his ideas. The NY Times article goes on to say “If no one is quite ready to dump a pitcher of water over Dr. Wilson’s head, many colleagues are mystified and dismayed by his late-life embrace of group selection — a highly controversial notion among biologists — and rejection of the kin-selection theory that he helped popularize in “Sociobiology.”

So things might be a little more complex than your ideology will allow you to understand, in the area of evolutionary anything or even, in most things.

You don’t help old ladies across the road and as an old lady I appreciate that. But it is the case that most people feel do good when they ‘help’ other people; you are an outlier.

“Humans deliver benefits to close relatives (Burnstein et al., 1994), and humans form “friendships,” characterized by the delivery of benefits of various sorts, a robust phenomenon which points to the existence of altruism mechanisms (Silk, 2004). Perhaps most strikingly, humans endure costs to deliver benefits to others, as in “group” activities such as barn raisings and warfare. Candidate explanations for these behaviors are reviewed briefly below..”

http://www.epjournal.net/blog/2012/05/evolutionary-explanations-for-altruism-and-morality-some-key-distinctions/

They aren’t really searching for the altruism; it is clear to most humans that ‘altruism’ does exist but it isn’t clear if there are biological correlates that can be found.

This link is to an article about reciprocal altruism and now there is even indirect reciprocity!

http://www.epjournal.net/wp-content/uploads/ep083748.pdf

Altruism among unrelated individuals is fascinating because its widespread occurrence is difficult to understand from the principles of natural selection. Several theories have suggested that even when altruistic acts are costly, altruists can gain if they are reciprocated directly or indirectly (Trivers, 1971). Direct reciprocity occurs when the receiver of an Altruism when reputational information is incomplete altruistic act in turn provides benefits for the individual that has acted altruistically (Axelrod, 1984). Indirect reciprocity involves altruism towards recipients, but the reciprocal benefits are provided by others than the recipients (Alexander, 1987; Roberts, 1998).