The Path to Cooperative Action during Group Social Dilemmas: A Literature Review, Set of Propositions, and Model Describing How the Opportunity to Communicate Encourages Cooperation

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Charles Pavitt


A social dilemma is a circumstance in which each of an aggregate of people must make an individual decision whether to acquire a short-term benefit for themselves or to forego some of that benefit for the long-term benefit of the aggregate.  The intent of this essay is to describe how communication, in terms of  both the opportunity to talk and the content of what is said, interacts with other “cooperative mechanisms” – group identity, reciprocity and equity norms, and trust and trustworthiness – to largely determine individual cooperation versus defection.  Two variables with relatively complex impacts on the cooperative mechanisms – social value orientation and group size – are also discussed.  A model and set of propositions relating these variables are also included, and areas for further are explored.

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Author Biography

Charles Pavitt, University of Delaware

Charles Pavitt is in his last year as a professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Delaware. Over his career, he has published three books and about 60 other works of various types primarily in the areas of interpersonal and small group communication and communication theory. In addition, he has published both academically and in other outlets in the area of baseball analytics.