We aim at reconciling apparently inconsistent findings by distinguishing two different cases of intuitive cognition: when intuition is a conscious process, and when it is an automatic process. Our hypothesis is that the drivers of prosocial behavior, which we refer to as "social motives", strictly depend on the cognitive mode. Indeed, we believe that prosocial behavior is mainly driven by empathy under automatic intuition, by social sanctioning under conscious intuition, and by both social sanctioning and morality under deliberation. In this project, we plan to investigate theoretically and experimentally this hypothesis. If we are successful, we can obtain a rationalization of apparently conflicting evidence provided by the literature and, more in general, we can foster the understanding of the relationship between cognitive mode and prosocial behavior, as mediated by social motives.
Evolutionary foundations of social motives and their relationship to prosocial behavior in social dilemmas
We plan to study the evolution of prosocial behavior under the different cognitive modes, with the aim of justifying our assumption that prosociality is mainly driven by empathy under automatic intuition, by social sanctioning under conscious intuition, and by social sanctioning and morality under deliberation. In doing this, we also plan to study the coevolution of morality and social sanctioning, trying to understand under which circumstances they reinforce or crowd out each other. The contribution of this research line to the advancement of knowledge is to provide theoretical restrictions to possible relationships between different forms of social motives and cognitive modes.
Effective methods for manipulating cognitive modes
Since we want to distinguish between automatic intuition, conscious intuition and deliberation (i.e., three cognitive modes in place of the usual two), we have to put particular care in the choice of appropriate methods to manipulate the cognitive mode. The contribution of this research line to the advancement of knowledge is to assess experimentally the efficacy of known methods for manipulating cognition with respect to the aim of inducing a greater reliance on each of the three cognitive modes (automatic intuition, conscious intuition and deliberation).
How cognitive modes and social motives co-determine prosocial behaviors
We plan to run incentivized lab experiments based on public good games, where subjects are treated along two dimensions: cognitive modes and social motives. The reliance on cognitive modes will be induced with the treatments verified by RL2. Greater importance of social motives will be encouraged mostly with priming and framing, enhanced by the use of virtual reality. This should lead to twelve experiments that are described in Table 2 (as an example, exp11 refers to the combined treatment where both automatic intuition and empathy are stimulated in experimental subjects).
How cognitive modes affect the degree of discrimination of prosocial behavior
We plan to recruit experimental subjects belonging to different ethnic groups, and to let them interact in public good games. Part of the interactions will occur between individuals of the same group, and the rest between individuals of different groups. Moreover, treatments should be run to induce greater reliance on automatic intuition, conscious intuition and deliberation, by exploiting the insights of RL2. A summary is in Table 3 (where columns refer to treatments of the cognitive mode, and rows distinguish within-group interactions from between-group interactions).