Cooperation. An Experimental Analysis by Gerald Marwell

By Gerald Marwell

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Experimental studies with nonhuman subjects have found that a single reinforced response is more difficult to eliminate than one with one or more reinforcing alternatives available (concurrent opérants). For example, an intensity of punishment which has little effect on the response rate of a single opérant can almost completely suppress the response when an alternative, although less reinforcing, is present (Azrin & Holz, 1966). It should also be noted that outside the laboratory a choice among at least several activities is typically available.

It is reasonable to postulate the accumulation of resentment over "unfair treatment" which, for some individuals, finally reaches a threshold only after several years. It may only be at this point that an employee, for example, commences "irrational" slowdowns or sabotage CONCLUSION 55 of his "cooperative" work environment. In this regard, Adams hypothesizes that: Leaving the field will be resorted to only when the magnitude of inequity experienced is high and other means of reducing it are unavailable.

Thus, by withdrawing from cooperation the pair as a whole was giving up much more money to avoid inequity under large than under small inequity conditions. It should also be noted that the amount of inequity experienced by the subjects under this design accumulated over time. For college students the number of task behaviors enacted (approximately 4,800) and the amount of time spent by each subject (from 6 to 10 hours) were both unusually large for laboratory research. Still, they have not been enough to allow for the full impact of inequity on behavior.

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