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Increased costs reduce reciprocal helping behaviour of humans in a virtual evacuation experiment

Bode, Nikolai WF and Miller, Jordan and O'Gorman, Rick and Codling, Edward A (2015) 'Increased costs reduce reciprocal helping behaviour of humans in a virtual evacuation experiment.' Scientific Reports, 5. ISSN 2045-2322

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Abstract

Altruistic behaviour is widespread and highly developed in humans and can also be found in some animal species. It has been suggested that altruistic tendencies can depend on costs, benefits and context. Here, we investigate the changes in the occurrence of helping behaviour in a computer-based experiment that simulates an evacuation from a building exploring the effect of varying the cost to help. Our findings illuminate a number of key mechanistic aspects of human decision-making about whether to help or not. In a novel situation where it is difficult to assess the risks associated with higher costs, we reproduce the finding that increasing costs reduce helping and find that the reduction in the frequency of helping behaviour is gradual rather than a sudden transition for a threshold cost level. Interestingly, younger and male participants were more likely to help. We provide potential explanations for this result relating to the nature of our experiment. Finally, we find no evidence that participants in our experiment plan ahead over two consecutive, inter-dependent helping opportunities when conducting cost-benefit trade-offs in spontaneous decisions. We discuss potential applications of our findings to research into decision-making during evacuations.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
H Social Sciences > HA Statistics
Divisions: Faculty of Science and Health > Mathematical Sciences, Department of
Faculty of Science and Health > Psychology, Department of
Depositing User: Jim Jamieson
Date Deposited: 26 Nov 2015 15:14
Last Modified: 17 Dec 2018 14:15
URI: http://repository.essex.ac.uk/id/eprint/15535

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