Designing a social policy initiative for greater cooperation: social dilemmas, behavioural game theory, motives, altruism and ethics

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John Lazarus Newcastle University, UK

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Drawing on the experience of editing this special issue, I propose a method for developing the early stages of social policy interventions requiring cooperation, based on two phenomena foundational to approaching this challenge. I recommend that the first stage is methodological – the application of behavioural game theory – and that the second is analysis of a psychological process – the motivations of those involved. A potential third step is use of a toolbox of factors known to encourage cooperation that I discussed in my introductory article for the issue. Three further processes are important for social dilemma policy development: conditional cooperation, trust and feedback. I go on to discuss: the contrasting properties of selfish and altruistic motives for cooperating, particularly in terms of their sensitivity to influence; the long-term prospects for altruistically motivated cooperation; and ethical aspects of tackling societal dilemmas through bottom-up and top-down agents for change. Finally, I consider the current state of the relationship between behavioural science and social policy.

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John Lazarus Newcastle University, UK

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