Our minds consist primarily of “a constellation of specialized mechanisms that have domain-specific procedures, operate over domain-specific representations, or both” - Cosmides and Tooby (1994), p. 94
People struggle to identify what information is necessary in order to test the truth of a logical- reasoning problem. › Wason Selection Task is used to examine this issue. Typical experiment: presents a rule and asks subjects how to find out if the rule is violated. › Abstract problems: difficult to answer correctly › Social contract problems: more likely to be answered correctly
If a card has a D on one side, it has a 3 on the other side. What card(s) should you flip over to determine if the rule is true? Correct answer: D and 7. Seeing reverse of 3 can confirm rule but won’t disprove it.
If you borrow my car, you must fill up the gas tank. What card(s) should you flip over to determine if the rule is true? Correct answer: borrowed car and empty gas tank. People reason correctly when confronted with social contract problem.
Cosmides’ study showed elevated levels of performance on cheater detection tasks (1989) › Suggests humans have cheater-detector mechanisms Detecting altruism ≠ tracking cooperation › Cooperator accepts benefit and pays cost › Altruist pays cost without accepting benefits › Cheater accepts benefits without paying cost
Different ways of maintaining cooperation with cheaters and cooperators depending on if rewards or punishment used › Punishing lack of cooperation more effective › Generous behavior usually unrewarded › Supports idea that mechanisms to detect cheaters will be more useful in maintaining cooperation
Studies seem to support that people are better at detecting cheaters Some researchers challenge idea that people are better at cheater-detection; believe people should also have mechanisms to detect altruists too. Other studies have shown people have ability to detect altruists (Brown & Moore, 2000). › Enhanced altruism detection may be a way to detect people who are “fake” altruists.
Altruism-detection tasks in multiple studies contain embedded answers. › Ex. “You suspect that Big Kiku will be altruistic and give food even if the man does not get a tattoo. (Evans & Chang, 1998)
Interested in whether enhanced altruism detection is a way to detect “fake” altruists. › If true, altruism detection would be govern by same mechanism as cheater detection. › Compared altruist-detection to cheater-detection tasks to see if there was an association. Subjects performed better on altruist-detection tasks despite absence embedded answers. Cheater-detection task confounded with embedded answers. Wording of cheater-detection scenarios may have affected subjects’ answers.
Wanted to address confounds of previous studies › Are embedded cues why subjects performance better on some altruist-detection task? Questioned existence of altruist-detection mechanism.
Experiment #1: Answers embedded in questions presented potential confound › Used (non-)embedded answers to test whether embedded answers were a confound, which would undermine support for cognitive modules for cheater detection Experiment #2: revised published altruist- detection problems to remove embedded answers › Results indicated embedded answers are a confound for altruism detection
Experiment #3: based on findings by Oda et al. › Tested whether altruism detection is a form of cheater detection or independent of cheating module › Methodological issues present possible confounds May not be a special altruism detection module
Participants Materials › Booklet with 4 selection tasks Weather, Hare Mantra, abstract, social contract › 2 versions: embedded & non-embedded answer Procedure
“The results suggest that embedding the answer within the selection task scenario can significantly alter performance on the task, at least when the scenario does not involve cheater detection.” Embedding answer improves performance on tasks that do not try to detect cheaters
Researchers removed embedded text to see effect on altruism detection ability Participants Materials › Booklet with 3 altruism detection tasks Blood donation, altruist cassava root, generous uncle Procedure
“As predicted, removing the embedded solutions from these altruist-detection problems did have a significant influence on performance.” Fiddick & Erlich argue that removing embedded solutions prevented subjects from identifying altruists Did removing embedded solutions prevent altruist detection? Results were statistically significant after pooling data
Results of Oda et al. › Tested whether altruism detection is a form of cheater detection or independent of cheater- detection module › Argued for separate cheater/altruist detection mechanisms Fiddick & Erlich: attempted to replicate results with a non-confounded cheater-detection scenario
Cheater-detection booklet › Sticker task Altruist-detection booklet › Volunteer task Two groups of participants; one received cheater-detection booklet first and the other received the altruist-detection booklet first
Participants performed significantly better on the cheater-detection task (58.5% correct) than on the altruist-detection task (20.0% correct) › No correlation between performance (r = -0.047) › When cheater detection task was first, r = +0.472 › When altruist detection task was first, r = -0.472 Why should cheater detection prime altruist detection?
Embedded solutions do confound results (Exp 1 & 2). Elimination of confounds in exp 2 did not completely reduce altruist-detection levels. › Non-standard instructions may affect subject performance. › Categorization task (altruist-detection) vs. rule violations (cheater-detection)
Exp 3 also suggests that altruist-detection may prime cheater-detection › Challenges findings of Oda et al. study › Rule-following methodology of Oda et al. study may reduce performance on cheater-detection tasks.
Conclude lack of evidence supporting existence of an altruist detection mechanism. Many social contract theory (SCT) studies confounded by having embedded answers.