Abstracts

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Cristina BicchieriSarah F. BrosnanPeter DanielsonNatalie GoldPaul E. GriffithsStefan LinquistRonald de SousaJesse PrinzErte Xiao

Behaving as expected: public information and fairness preferences
Cristina Bicchieri
University of Pennsylvania

The paper presents experimental results on Ultimatum games in which we test the hypothesis that subjects have conditional preferences for following a fairness norm. Whenever subjects’ empirical and normative expectations are consistent and point to a norm, they display a strong tendency to follow it. However, when the situation is ambiguous (in that expectations are less well defined), behavior becomes more selfish. The general thesis is that norm-abiding behavior is conditional upon having specific expectations, and that whenever such expectations are missing norms will not be followed. The emotional component is important, but it is closely related to the presence of relevant expectations.

Inequity responses and social emotions in nonhuman primates
Sarah F. Brosnan
Emory University

Negative responses to inequity have been proposed to be one element supporting successful cooperation in social groups.   In humans, neuroimaging studies have further linked these negative responses to emotions, indicating that social emotions may be one factor underpinning the human societal norms of cooperation and fairness. It seems unlikely that such a response evolved de novo in humans.   In fact, recent research has demonstrated that nonhuman primate species, like humans, respond negatively to both inequitable treatment and group mates who behave ‘unfairly’ in a cooperative situation.   Certain behavioral characteristics indicate that these responses have an emotional component.   For instance, when paired with a conspecific, capuchins seem to base their decisions on the partner’s overall behavior rather than on a cost/benefit analysis of each choice individually.   Such behavior is a reaction against the partner rather than a calculated response to individual situations and may indication that this reaction is emotional.   In fact, such an emotional response may represent a cognitively simpler mechanism than complex calculations, and represent a stage in the evolution of the human response.

Norms of reciprocity & moral emotions: designing a web-based experiment on ethics and emerging infectious disease strategies
Peter Danielson
University of British Columbia

Sometimes we get lucky in applied ethics: our theories generate something that illuminates an important problem. My research program, artificial morality, has focused on strategies of reciprocal cooperation in social dilemmas, concluding that we should expect populations to be mixed, consisting of unconditional cooperators (C), free riders (F), and at least two kinds of reciprocator (R) (Danielson 1992; 2002). Recently Kurzban and Houser (2005) have argued for a three-way partition of human populations between C, F, and R, based on evolutionary game theory, simulation, and experimental economics.   We will test this hypothesis in more realistic settings, using issues raised by the important problem of emerging infectious diseases (EID) for three reasons. First, several public health responses to EID evoke strong moral emotions such as treating the infected versus vaccinating healthy children. Second, some of these choices directly involve public goods problems, most obviously the choice of vaccinating my child or letting others bare the costs of risk reduction (via herd immunity). Third, emerging infectious diseases introduces a dynamic dimension: “pioneering” new vaccines presents public goods problems different from maintaining immunity later. The NERD web-based survey instrument for experimental ethics has been well-received by the GE3LS and genomics communities (Ahmad et al. 2005, in press; Danielson et al. in press).
Our surveys use historical sequences of ethically demanding problems with optional expert and lay advice. Our instrument allows us to seek evidence for the Reciprocity norm in several dimensions: participants’ willingness to support new or ongoing programs and their need for information on how and why others choose. Our experiment should illuminate the role of the emotions in enforcing norms. The R norm should lead to differential answers on issues like coercive vaccination (Dare 1998) and responses to intentional vs. natural threats. We go further and hypothesize that those following the Reciprocal norm will differentially exhibit emotions that overshoot the norm’s target, revealed by bias in favor of omission instead of action (Baron and Ritov 2004) and bias against therapies seen as “betraying trust” (Koehler and Gershoff 2003).

Intra-Personal and Inter-Personal Norm Enforcers
Natalie Gold
Duke University

In some situations, ‘rational’ choice does not lead to the optimal outcome and agents are better off if they can institute and enforce ‘norms’. The notorious example is the prisoner’s dilemma. I show how situations of individual choice over time can be structurally isomorphic to situations of strategic interaction between agents. The conflict between individual interest and group outcomes in the inter-personal case is analogous to the conflict between short-term and long-term interests in the intra-personal case. I use this model to compare the ways in which norms are enforced in the two cases and, in particular, the role of emotions in relation to agency, memory and language.

“Ask not what your emotions can do for you…” – Emotions, social norms and Machiavellian intelligence
Paul E. Griffiths
University of Queensland

Conventional evolutionary considerations pose an obvious problem for the view that emotions act as internalized enforcers of social norms. Selection should favor individuals who can exercise some control over emotional responses that exist to benefit the group, so that those individuals can ‘defect’ from social norms when it serves their interests to do so. Recent work in psychology on emotions as strategic behaviors offers the opportunity to flesh out this suggestion through an exploration of the way in which individuals use their emotions to negotiate advantageous outcomes in social transactions. This perspective on emotion poses a challenge to widely-held ideas about the conditions of appropriateness for emotional response.

Emotion-governing norms as extended phenotypes
Stefan Linquist
University of Queensland

While the view that emotions are partly constituted by social norms has been central to social constructivist perspectives on emotion, this idea has not taken hold among more biologically-minded thinkers.   The biological approach to emotion tends to equate them with “affect programs” or innate physiological responses that are associated with characteristic facial expressions.   In this article I critique two attempts to bring the biological and social constructivist perspectives into alignment.   Stich and Mellor’s (2002) proposal that the differences between these traditions can be reduced to a semantic dispute fails, I argue, to appreciate the two fundamental disagreements between them. Namely, the role norms play in individuating emotions and the potential for complex social emotions (like jealousy, pride, guilt and shame) to evolve by natural selection.   Similarly, proponents of the disunity thesis attempt to reconcile the two traditions by arguing (mistakenly, I claim) that affect programs are a distinct psychological type from socially constructed emotions.   Finally, I sketch an alternative proposal that views affect programs and emotion-norms as complimentary components in the development of an emotional response, and which appeals to the concept of an extended phenotype to explain how such complex entities might evolve.

Restoring Emotion’s Bad Rep: The moral randomness of norms
Ronald de Sousa
University of Toronto

Despite the fact that common sense taxes emotions with irrationality, philosophers have, by and large, celebrated their functionality. They are credited with motivating, steadying, shaping or harmonizing our dispositions to act, and   in policing norms of social behaviour. It’s time to restore emotion’s bad rep. To this end, I shall argue that we should expect that some of the “norms” enforced by emotions will be unevenly distributed among the members of our species, and may be dysfunctional at the individual, social, moral, or even species levels. I’ll discuss at least three considerations that support this view:
1. Evolution does nothing for the sake of individuals, except accidentally.
This is a more general problem, leading to the potential failure of natural “norms,” enforced by emotions and/or by mechanisms of social sanction, to fit in with the values to which rational deliberation might lead. While natural selection undoubtedly works on several levels or “units,” individuals like you and me are not among its beneficiaries.
2. The fallacy of adaptive fixation
. Talk of “fitness-enhancing” traits commonly assumes that if something is adaptive it will spread to fixation in a population. But fitness is often frequency dependent, implying that a stable outcome of selection may be far from optimal from any normative point of view. The ratio of psychopaths in a population, or, for that matter, the ratio of males, may be cases in point
3. The moral randomness of group selection
. Group selection is often credited with providing an explanation of the evolution of altruism. But altruism, in the relevant sense, characterizes fanatical suicide bombers or slavish devotion to tyranny.

The Emotional Basis of Moral Attitudes
Jesse Prinz
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

According to David Hume, and other British Moralists, emotions are essential to moral judgement. In this talk, I survey evidence from psychology and cognitive neuroscience that supports the Humean conjecture. I argue that recent empirical findings are best explained by the hypothesis that to judge something wrong is to have a sentiment of disapprobation towards it. I argue that disapprobation is not a single emotion, but a structured emotional disposition. Finally, I suggest that our moral sentiments are not predetermined by biological evolution, but rather emerge under cultural pressures.

Emotion Expression and Fairness in Economic Exchange
Erte Xiao
George Mason University

Punishment is an important tool for enforcing fairness in economic exchange. However, Xiao and Houser (2005) find that people are less likely to use costly punishment when they can express their negative emotions using relatively less costly channels. An important open question stemming from this result is whether emotion expression can also promote fairness. I report data from Dictator Games, where one subject has the right to determine a division of an amount of money between herself and her receiver, and her receiver must accept that division. Compared to a standard game, dictators are much less likely to allocate the smallest possible amount to receivers when receivers can react to the offer by expressing emotions to dictators.   When receiver emotion expression is possible, the distribution of dictators’ offers is not significantly different from the distribution of proposers’ offers in a standard ultimatum game. These data support the view that, at least within the context of these games, emotion expression can promote fair economic exchange as effectively as costly punishment. The results are consistent with economic theories that incorporate psychological factors such as guilt and self-deception into the human decision process. The findings suggest that a strong communication system facilitating emotion expression can have significant consequences in social environments including markets, companies and courts.


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