Sunday, June 27, 2010

Content of communication not a predictor of cooperation

Earlier this month a new paper appeared of myself in Ecology and Society. The paper discussed earlier experiments than the recent Science paper and focused on the content analysis of communication. Thousands of lines of chat were classified in 20 different categories and in the statistical analysis we did not found a relation between the decisions and the type of communication. However, we found a significant effect between the amount and distribution of chat messages. There was more cooperation in groups with more messages and a more equal distribution of messages.
Of course a critique can be that we should have used different ways to classify the content of the messages to derive a relation between content and actions. But we also see groups who are very precise in agreeing where to harvest and how, but that this strategy is not a very good strategy. At least groups that do not communicate much, or are dominated by one or two persons seem to lack the social fabric to increase cooperation.
Besides the insights on communication, we find that the type of informal rules developed by the groups fitted the ecological dynamics of the resource. The slower growing resource leads to more rules on when and how to harvest, while the faster growing resource has only rules how to harvest. If we include spatial heterogeneity more time is spend on the specifics on where to harvest.