Thursday, March 20, 2008

"Play Nice" Researchers Catch up with the Teacher

At last, research is catching up that great teacher whose brief but profound rabbinical career 2000 years ago could be summed up in the three words "love one another."

Today Nature magazine published the findings of researchers who studied the behavior of 100 Boston-area college students playing the game "Prisoner's Dilemma," which the researches describe as "a punishment-heavy version of the classic one-on-one brinksmanship game of prisoner's dilemma."

Common game theory has held that punishment makes two equals cooperate. But when people compete in repeated games, punishment fails to deliver, said study author Martin Nowak. He is director of the evolutionary dynamics lab at Harvard where the study was conducted.

"On the individual level, we find that those who use punishments are the losers," Nowak said his experiments found.

Those who escalate the conflict very often wound up doomed.

When faced with a nasty opponent, turning the other cheek and continuing to cooperate--or at least not handing out punishment--paid off more in the long run, the study found.

"It's a very positive message," said study co-author David Rand, a Harvard biology graduate student researcher. "In general, the thing that is most, sort of, rational and best for your own self-interest is to be nice."

Read the full story here.


Lea said...

This is a very heartening study. I have long been interested in these types of dynamics, starting with the videos of the Stanford prison experiment done by Dr. Philip Zimbardo that I saw in undergraduate school.

Sharon said...

What an interesting post, Sandy. I usually leave comments on the picture days but enjoy reading your blog on other days.

the teach said...

Oh Sandy, I do believe that! I've believed it a long time... being nice and self-effacing gets them every time! :D

Billy said...

Never heard of this game. As for being nice, it looks like, as Teilhard envisioned, it might take a few thousand years more until humans learn this lesson.

CrazyCath said...

And we were told this how many thousand years ago....?

It is heart warming that researchers find the same conclusions but why doesn't mankind just listen in the first place? Life would be soooo much simpler! (sigh) just imho. :0)

AscenderRisesAbove said...

my daughter, a teacher, was just talking about this study the other day. fascinating stuff

Viola Jaynes said...

It is great that they can prove this through these studies. Those with the deepest spiritual convictions have known this for a very long time.
It is not always the easiest road to take pays off every time.
Great post!

Naomi said...

I think many adults could learn a lot from playing this game Sandy, as well as young students. Life would be so much nicer if people co-operated and were nice to one another.