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Does competition really bring out the worst? Testosterone, social distance and inter-male competition shape parochial altruism in human males.

Diekhof EK, Wittmer S, Reimers L - PLoS ONE (2014)

Bottom Line: Adding an intergroup competition led to a further escalation of outgroup hostility and reduced punishment of unfair ingroup members.High testosterone levels were associated with a relatively increased ingroup favoritism and also a change towards enhanced outgroup hostility in the intergroup competition.Altogether, a significant relation between testosterone and parochial altruism could be demonstrated, but only in the presence of an intergroup competition.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: University of Hamburg, Biocenter Grindel and Zoological Museum, Institute for Human Biology, Neuroendocrinology Unit, Hamburg, Germany.

ABSTRACT
Parochial altruism, defined as increased ingroup favoritism and heightened outgroup hostility, is a widespread feature of human societies that affects altruistic cooperation and punishment behavior, particularly in intergroup conflicts. Humans tend to protect fellow group members and fight against outsiders, even at substantial costs for themselves. Testosterone modulates responses to competition and social threat, but its exact role in the context of parochial altruism remains controversial. Here, we investigated how testosterone influences altruistic punishment tendencies in the presence of an intergroup competition. Fifty male soccer fans played an ultimatum game (UG), in which they faced anonymous proposers that could either be a fan of the same soccer team (ingroup) or were fans of other teams (outgroups) that differed in the degree of social distance and enmity to the ingroup. The UG was played in two contexts with varying degrees of intergroup rivalry. Our data show that unfair offers were rejected more frequently than fair proposals and the frequency of altruistic punishment increased with increasing social distance to the outgroups. Adding an intergroup competition led to a further escalation of outgroup hostility and reduced punishment of unfair ingroup members. High testosterone levels were associated with a relatively increased ingroup favoritism and also a change towards enhanced outgroup hostility in the intergroup competition. High testosterone concentrations further predicted increased proposer generosity in interactions with the ingroup. Altogether, a significant relation between testosterone and parochial altruism could be demonstrated, but only in the presence of an intergroup competition. In human males, testosterone may promote group coherence in the face of external threat, even against the urge to selfishly maximize personal reward. In that way, our observation refutes the view that testosterone generally promotes antisocial behaviors and aggressive responses, but underlines its rather specific role in the fine-tuning of male social cognition.

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Related in: MedlinePlus

Example of an experimental trial in the computer-based Ultimatum Game (UG).Male soccer fans played the UG as responders and could either accept or reject the offer made by an anonymous proposer. They faced four different types of anonymous proposers: (1.) fans of the respondent‘s favorite soccer team (ingroup), (2.) fans of a soccer team rated as neutral (neutral outgroup), (3.) fans of an unknown cricket team (unknown outgroup), (4.) fans of the soccer team most hated by the respondent (antagonist outgroup). Offers made by these agents were either fair (i.e., offering 4 or 5 points out of ten) or unfair (i.e., offering 1, 2 or 3 points out of ten). The UG was played in two consecutive contexts: (1.) without a competition between groups (neutral context), and (2.) with an instructed group competition (competitive context).
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pone-0098977-g001: Example of an experimental trial in the computer-based Ultimatum Game (UG).Male soccer fans played the UG as responders and could either accept or reject the offer made by an anonymous proposer. They faced four different types of anonymous proposers: (1.) fans of the respondent‘s favorite soccer team (ingroup), (2.) fans of a soccer team rated as neutral (neutral outgroup), (3.) fans of an unknown cricket team (unknown outgroup), (4.) fans of the soccer team most hated by the respondent (antagonist outgroup). Offers made by these agents were either fair (i.e., offering 4 or 5 points out of ten) or unfair (i.e., offering 1, 2 or 3 points out of ten). The UG was played in two consecutive contexts: (1.) without a competition between groups (neutral context), and (2.) with an instructed group competition (competitive context).

Mentions: The aim of the present study was to directly assess the potential link between endogenous testosterone and parochial altruism in a group context (soccer) that is characterized by both strong ingroup favoritism and robust rivalry between groups. In particular, we wanted to investigate whether testosterone indeed modulates altruistic punishment tendencies as a means of ingroup norm enforcement or whether this relationship is rather limited to aggression against distant outgroup members when facing an intergroup conflict. Fifty male soccer fans with a strong feeling of group coherence were recruited to perform an Ultimatum Game (UG). The UG is an economic exchange task, in which two players interact [44]. One player acts as the proposer (Player A), who offers a certain share of a fixed amount to the second player (Player B). Proposals can be fair or unfair and Player B has to decide whether to accept or reject an offer. When he accepts the proposal, both players receive their share as offered by Player A. Upon rejection, both receive nothing. The UG is the ideal task to measure costly altruistic punishment in the laboratory. In the UG, humans commonly diverge from economical rationality and do not maximize their total payoff, but tend to punish unfair offers at the expense of their personal reward [44]. This is interpreted as reflecting a norm enforcement tendency necessary to promote cooperation amongst unrelated individuals of the same group [2]. However, the rejection of unfair offers may also reflect an aggressive act in response to social provocation and status threat [31], [45]. Intergroup conflicts often start after a social provocation, which triggers costly retaliatory acts to harm outgroup members. For this reason, one would expect an increase in the rejection rate of unfair offers during interactions between socially distant or rival groups. In our study male soccer fans faced 36 anonymous proposers in single-shot interactions in a computer-based UG (Fig. 1). Proposers were either marked as fans of the same team as the responders (ingroup) or were denoted as fans of one of three other teams (two soccer teams and one cricket team). These latter teams differed in terms of their social distance and enmity to the ingroup (i.e., the neutral, the unknown, and the antagonistic outgroup), which was expected to trigger different degrees of parochialism and outgroup hostility. Proposals made by each group could be either fair or unfair. The UG was played twice in two contexts with different levels of intergroup rivalry. In the neutral environment, subjects played the UG with fans of all other teams and were instructed to maximize their personal outcome. In the competitive context, intergroup rivalry was further escalated to a real intergroup conflict. Responders were additionally told that cooperation with their fellow group members would maximize group reward and would result in extra points if they outperformed the other groups in the competition. However, this also demanded the sacrifice of a fraction of one's personal reward, since group success could only be achieved if subjects also minimized outgroup reward.


Does competition really bring out the worst? Testosterone, social distance and inter-male competition shape parochial altruism in human males.

Diekhof EK, Wittmer S, Reimers L - PLoS ONE (2014)

Example of an experimental trial in the computer-based Ultimatum Game (UG).Male soccer fans played the UG as responders and could either accept or reject the offer made by an anonymous proposer. They faced four different types of anonymous proposers: (1.) fans of the respondent‘s favorite soccer team (ingroup), (2.) fans of a soccer team rated as neutral (neutral outgroup), (3.) fans of an unknown cricket team (unknown outgroup), (4.) fans of the soccer team most hated by the respondent (antagonist outgroup). Offers made by these agents were either fair (i.e., offering 4 or 5 points out of ten) or unfair (i.e., offering 1, 2 or 3 points out of ten). The UG was played in two consecutive contexts: (1.) without a competition between groups (neutral context), and (2.) with an instructed group competition (competitive context).
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC4116333&req=5

pone-0098977-g001: Example of an experimental trial in the computer-based Ultimatum Game (UG).Male soccer fans played the UG as responders and could either accept or reject the offer made by an anonymous proposer. They faced four different types of anonymous proposers: (1.) fans of the respondent‘s favorite soccer team (ingroup), (2.) fans of a soccer team rated as neutral (neutral outgroup), (3.) fans of an unknown cricket team (unknown outgroup), (4.) fans of the soccer team most hated by the respondent (antagonist outgroup). Offers made by these agents were either fair (i.e., offering 4 or 5 points out of ten) or unfair (i.e., offering 1, 2 or 3 points out of ten). The UG was played in two consecutive contexts: (1.) without a competition between groups (neutral context), and (2.) with an instructed group competition (competitive context).
Mentions: The aim of the present study was to directly assess the potential link between endogenous testosterone and parochial altruism in a group context (soccer) that is characterized by both strong ingroup favoritism and robust rivalry between groups. In particular, we wanted to investigate whether testosterone indeed modulates altruistic punishment tendencies as a means of ingroup norm enforcement or whether this relationship is rather limited to aggression against distant outgroup members when facing an intergroup conflict. Fifty male soccer fans with a strong feeling of group coherence were recruited to perform an Ultimatum Game (UG). The UG is an economic exchange task, in which two players interact [44]. One player acts as the proposer (Player A), who offers a certain share of a fixed amount to the second player (Player B). Proposals can be fair or unfair and Player B has to decide whether to accept or reject an offer. When he accepts the proposal, both players receive their share as offered by Player A. Upon rejection, both receive nothing. The UG is the ideal task to measure costly altruistic punishment in the laboratory. In the UG, humans commonly diverge from economical rationality and do not maximize their total payoff, but tend to punish unfair offers at the expense of their personal reward [44]. This is interpreted as reflecting a norm enforcement tendency necessary to promote cooperation amongst unrelated individuals of the same group [2]. However, the rejection of unfair offers may also reflect an aggressive act in response to social provocation and status threat [31], [45]. Intergroup conflicts often start after a social provocation, which triggers costly retaliatory acts to harm outgroup members. For this reason, one would expect an increase in the rejection rate of unfair offers during interactions between socially distant or rival groups. In our study male soccer fans faced 36 anonymous proposers in single-shot interactions in a computer-based UG (Fig. 1). Proposers were either marked as fans of the same team as the responders (ingroup) or were denoted as fans of one of three other teams (two soccer teams and one cricket team). These latter teams differed in terms of their social distance and enmity to the ingroup (i.e., the neutral, the unknown, and the antagonistic outgroup), which was expected to trigger different degrees of parochialism and outgroup hostility. Proposals made by each group could be either fair or unfair. The UG was played twice in two contexts with different levels of intergroup rivalry. In the neutral environment, subjects played the UG with fans of all other teams and were instructed to maximize their personal outcome. In the competitive context, intergroup rivalry was further escalated to a real intergroup conflict. Responders were additionally told that cooperation with their fellow group members would maximize group reward and would result in extra points if they outperformed the other groups in the competition. However, this also demanded the sacrifice of a fraction of one's personal reward, since group success could only be achieved if subjects also minimized outgroup reward.

Bottom Line: Adding an intergroup competition led to a further escalation of outgroup hostility and reduced punishment of unfair ingroup members.High testosterone levels were associated with a relatively increased ingroup favoritism and also a change towards enhanced outgroup hostility in the intergroup competition.Altogether, a significant relation between testosterone and parochial altruism could be demonstrated, but only in the presence of an intergroup competition.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: University of Hamburg, Biocenter Grindel and Zoological Museum, Institute for Human Biology, Neuroendocrinology Unit, Hamburg, Germany.

ABSTRACT
Parochial altruism, defined as increased ingroup favoritism and heightened outgroup hostility, is a widespread feature of human societies that affects altruistic cooperation and punishment behavior, particularly in intergroup conflicts. Humans tend to protect fellow group members and fight against outsiders, even at substantial costs for themselves. Testosterone modulates responses to competition and social threat, but its exact role in the context of parochial altruism remains controversial. Here, we investigated how testosterone influences altruistic punishment tendencies in the presence of an intergroup competition. Fifty male soccer fans played an ultimatum game (UG), in which they faced anonymous proposers that could either be a fan of the same soccer team (ingroup) or were fans of other teams (outgroups) that differed in the degree of social distance and enmity to the ingroup. The UG was played in two contexts with varying degrees of intergroup rivalry. Our data show that unfair offers were rejected more frequently than fair proposals and the frequency of altruistic punishment increased with increasing social distance to the outgroups. Adding an intergroup competition led to a further escalation of outgroup hostility and reduced punishment of unfair ingroup members. High testosterone levels were associated with a relatively increased ingroup favoritism and also a change towards enhanced outgroup hostility in the intergroup competition. High testosterone concentrations further predicted increased proposer generosity in interactions with the ingroup. Altogether, a significant relation between testosterone and parochial altruism could be demonstrated, but only in the presence of an intergroup competition. In human males, testosterone may promote group coherence in the face of external threat, even against the urge to selfishly maximize personal reward. In that way, our observation refutes the view that testosterone generally promotes antisocial behaviors and aggressive responses, but underlines its rather specific role in the fine-tuning of male social cognition.

Show MeSH
Related in: MedlinePlus