How to Cope With “Noise” in Social Dilemmas: The Benefits of Communication

Department of Social Psychology, Free University, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Impact Factor: 5.08). 01/2005; 87(6):845-59. DOI: 10.1037/0022-3514.87.6.845
Source: PubMed


Interactions in social life may be seriously affected by negative noise, whereby actual or perceived behavior is less cooperative than was intended (e.g., arriving late due to an unforeseen traffic jam). The present research examines whether negative noise exerts detrimental effects on impressions and cooperation and whether such effects could be reduced by communication. Consistent with hypotheses, Study 1 revealed that negative noise exerts detrimental effects on both impressions of partners' benign intent and cooperation and that these detrimental effects could be effectively reduced by communication about noise. Study 2 replicated both findings but only for individuals with low trust. Mediation analysis revealed that impressions of benign intent and prosocial interaction goals underlie the positive effects of communication on cooperation.

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Available from: Paul A M Van Lange,
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    • "The trust-in-others and trust-in-self scales were designed to include three items that were central in existing scales [5]–[8], thereby capturing items with positive valence (“I completely trust most other people”) and negative valence (“When push comes to shove, I do not trust most other people”), both of which explicitly used the word “trust”, and an item that captured the broad behavioral implication of the trust: the intention to accept vulnerability, as explicated in one of the most widely-accepted definitions of trust [5] (“I dare to put my fate in the hands of most other people”). The three-item scales of trust-in-others and trust-in-self were pre-tested in 2006 in an online survey administered by TNS/NIPO, a Netherlands Institute for Public Opinion. "
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    • "An interesting case in point is provided by Tazelaar et al. (2004) who, as mentioned earlier, found that levels of cooperation are much lower when people face a social dilemma with noise. More interesting, they found that this detrimental effect of noise was more pronounced for people with low trust than for people with high trust (Tazelaar et al., 2004, Study 2). Third, based on a recent meta-analysis, it is clear that trust matters most when there is a high degree of conflict between one's own and others' outcomes (Balliet & Van Lange, in press-a; cf. "
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