Social Dilemmas and Justice 2500-EN-PS-EAc6-04
Research in social dilemmas has an element of fun - experimental games.
These game settings represent decisions in which individuals are socially
interdependent with each other; the actions of all decision makers in the
situation influence the outcomes of all of the others involved. Decades of
research has used these games to help understand social motivations,
trust, and power/control as predictors of cooperative and noncooperative
behavior in social dilemmas. How people behave in these
social dilemmas can have major implications for areas such as resource
conservation, democratic processes, and international conflict. The
course will be divided into 3 parts,
Part 1: We will define social dilemmas conceptually and then define them
operationally. For the operational definition we will quantify social
dilemmas with the most commonly used paradigm: Games. We will
examine different types of social dilemma games with a focus on why
they are used, what types of social psychological constructs are at play
(i.e., fear, greed, trust, self-interest, altruism), and how these games can
be applied in understanding human decisions and behavior.
Part 2: We will learn about different theoretical perspectives on social
dilemmas, taking an interdisciplinary approach that integrates views from
psychology along with other disciplines such as economics, biology,
political science, anthropology, and sociology. First, we will consider how
cooperation and competition can be explained in terms of evolutionary
pressures. Secondly, individual differences in psychology will be examined
as predictors of cooperation such as morality, trust, and preferences for
control. Finally, we will consider how cultural influences can shape
socially interdependent relationships with an emphasis on whether
cultures differ on how they handle social dilemmas.
Part 3: We will take a closer look at the structure of social dilemmas and
how research can be utilized to address applied problems. The structure
of a social dilemma can dictate the balance of power, resources, and risk
inherent in a social interaction. We will examine recent research that has
begun to establish biological and neuroscientific foundations of
Type of course
An increased understanding of the interaction between situational and
intra-personal determinants of behavior in social dilemmas.
Articulate what it means for decision makers to be socially
Quantify and illustrate different types of social dilemmas as games.
Provide examples of individual differences and describe how they
influence decisions in social dilemmas.
Provide examples of environmental characteristics that can influence
cooperation or competition.
Interpret perspectives on how justice can be achieved in social
Read and interrogate empirical, peer-reviewed research.
Articulate how “real-world” problems related to justice such as
international conflict, organizational relationships, and political power
can be framed as social dilemmas.
1) In-class assignments (33%)
2) Quizzes (67%)
Most classes include an in class assignment and a quiz. The lowest 2
grades on in class assignments will be dropped and the lowest 2 grades on
quizzes will be dropped. This makes it possible for students to have up to
2 unexcused absences with no penalty. If all absences are excused, a
student may have up to 4 absences with no penalty. Additional absences
will result in points being deducted from the final grade.
Additional information (registration calendar, class conductors, localization and schedules of classes), might be available in the USOSweb system: