Cooperative Issues in Social Dilemmas
Is it natural for people to cooperate?
Is it the norm for someone to help others who are in trouble?
Game theory defined a situation in which more profitable results can be achieved for individual actors when people do not cooperate with each other and used this to establish theoretical models. Meanwhile, social physiology and other fields have revealed, through various experiments, that a certain proportion of people will chose to cooperate, even when facing a situation in which non-cooperation could be more profitable for the individual. Consequently, our lab seeks to examine what types of situation make people more cooperative, or conversely less cooperative, employing a combination of methods including game experiments, gaming and simulations. In addition, with a focus on environmental issues, we attempt to elucidate how the issues raised in social dilemma experiments are resolved in actual practice throughout societies, through the use of case studies and social research.
Our hypothesis, which we continue to verify empirically, argues that the following three criteria are imperative to solve social dilemmas in actual societies: 1) that the ideal form for the entire society can be expressed as a feasible goal, with concrete plans presented, within the time range of daily life and not as an abstract concept; 2) the above-mentioned image of society for the near future is shared between many people and 3) everyone has been convinced and judges the decision making process implemented, to be capable of changing regulations in order to achieve the ideal form of society (this approach was developed from “Goal-Expectation Theory” by Pruit & Kimmel ; Yamagishi )/
A Decision Making Process to Increase the Procedural Fairness
It seems that when you can achive the same result at the end, the differences in the various processes utilized to reach the goal are not that important.This is argued to be the case because once a rule is applied, that rule should then become recognized as a regulation, regardless of the decision making process behind it.
However, in practice, it is widely known that whether people accept a given rule or not varies, depending on whether the decision making process involved was fair (or not). For instance, when changing the rules on environmental planning or garbage collection, whether the rule change was decided with due consultation with citizens and whether the decision making process was considered to be transparent, can make a significant difference to the degree of acceptance that a rule experiences.
Particularly, concerning environmental issues, even if a brilliant plan was conceived, it will end up being just “ a pie in the sky” dream if people cannot agree on how to translate the plan into action. As such, it is vital to apply a decision making process which can increase “procedural fairness.”
Our lab, accordingly, discuss the criteria to enhance procedural fairness, through the analysis of case studies and experimental research on group decision making, such as planning involving citizen participation.
Risks and Trust
Our daily life is full of risks. But, it is extremely difficult to understand the specific content of said risks, when thinking individually.
For instance, when thinking about the problem of garbage, aside from a small group of specialists, the general public have little idea about how waste is incinerated or the technology used for the prevention of air pollution and to restrict dioxin emissions.
Normally, you can lead your daily life without being bothered about such matters, as people tend to trust the specialists’ perspectives on such issues. However, if a person experiences some event which damages or destroys their trust in the specialists or the wider system, insecure feelings can develop quite suddenly. In policy making, for instance, no policy can be approved, regardless of how effective it may be, if the main actor involved, such as the government, has not gained sufficient trust from citizens or the public.
Our lab explores, from the perspective of risk communication and procedural fairness, how people can be encouraged to rebuild their trust after they have lost it, by employing a variety of approaches including; scenario experiments, group experiments, role-playing gaming and social surveys. Recent studies have made it increasingly clear that it is even more important for the decision making process to meet the criteria of procedural fairness in a situation where multiple stakeholders (main actors) are in conflict and are regarded as unreliable and hence, untrustworthy.
Environmentally Conscious Behavior
Many people have an eco-friendly attitude but not all such people are necessarily taking the considerate behavior required to help protect the environment. Up to now, a substantial number of studies have focused on the gap between people’s attitudes related to environmentally conscious behavior and their actual behavior (Ref: “Social Psychology of Environmental Behavior,” Yukio Hirose (Eds.) Kita-Ohji shobo).
However, in Japan, there is limited existing research on interventional studies and research on action in the field and thus, there is a need to collect more evidence, from both successful and failed projects. In addition, as a psychological topic of study, a wide range of old problems such as the relevant habits and surrounding social norms are still not clearly elucidated. This is due to the fact that short-term laboratory experiments cannot serve as a reliable means to verify such effects in real social settings.
Our lab attempts to overcome these challenges and address these difficult topics. In fact, we have been conducting various social experiments relating to appropriate garbage separation and elimination, the reduction of plastic bags, bringing your own thermos bottles to cafés and the promotion of energy-saving actions. Moroever, following how such influences proceed over a longer period can enable new insights to be acquired. Accordingly, our research team constantly make sincere attempts to confront the reality of situations in our daily life, over a realistic timeframe, and aim to conduct empirical research, which will help to resolve actual environmental issues, impacting the world today.