Hierarchy causes declines in cooperation due to decreased investment by lower-ranked individuals.
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Hierarchy is Detrimental for Human Cooperation:
Participants competed to earn hierarchy positions and then could cooperate with another individual in the hierarchy by investing in a common effort. Cooperation was achieved if the combined investments exceeded a threshold, and the higher ranked individual distributed the spoils unless control was contested by the partner. Compared to a condition lacking hierarchy, cooperation declined in the presence of a hierarchy due to a decrease in investment by lower ranked individuals. Furthermore, hierarchy was detrimental to cooperation regardless of whether it was earned or arbitrary. These findings mirror results from nonhuman primates and demonstrate that hierarchies are detrimental to cooperation.
Top Reddit comment:
This is very interesting in the context of some recent research that shows egalitarian beliefs require mental effort. It seems like we naturally tend towards hierarchical structures. I wonder if the decreased investment relates to a greater expectation of egalitarianism as the norm in modern society.