The Strength of Social Ties and Cooperation

9 October 2017, 12:30 - 14:00

CRASSH Meeting Room, Alison Richard Building

Part of the CRASSH Fellows Work in Progress Seminar Series.  All welcome but please email Michelle Maciejewska to book your place and to request readings.  A sandwich lunch and refreshments are provided.

Dr Edoardo Gallo

The Strength of Social Ties and Cooperation

Dr Gallo's research examines how the structure of social networks causally affects individual behaviour and economic outcomes using a combination of theory and experiments. In his work to date he has investigated a number of topics including the effectiveness of word-of-mouth learning , individuals’ ability to memorize and recall social network information, the role of rivalry relations in determining unethical behaviour, and the influence of communication networks on trading outcomes. Recently, his focus has been the study of how social network structure determines cooperation.  In a recent paper, he investigates how the knowledge individuals have about others’ reputation (reputational knowledge) and the social network structure (social knowledge) determines the emergence and sustenance of cooperative behaviour (this news article gives a non-technical summary of this work). He uses the well-known prisoner’s dilemma (PD) game as an abstract representation of some of the essential elements of cooperative behaviour.

He is  planning to further this line of work by investigating how the strength of social network ties matters for the emergence of cooperation. Sociologists have collected ample evidence of an association between high cooperation and strong social ties, but we currently ignore whether this is a causal mechanism and how it operates. In a series of experiments, he plans to investigate this causal link by using a novel design that encapsulates the strength of a tie by relating it to (a scaling factor of) the payoffs of a PD game. This is an abstract representation of social tie strength which captures the high benefits individuals may accrue from it as well as the large downside from the commitment in case the counterparty defects. The design varies both the strength of the tie participants can form and how many levels of tie strength are available in order to isolate the causal role of the strength of social ties in determining cooperation.