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The Role of Certainty in a Two-Person Volunteer’s Dilemma


Villiger, Daniel; Ullrich, Johannes; Krueger, Joachim Israel (2023). The Role of Certainty in a Two-Person Volunteer’s Dilemma. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 14(4):459-469.

Abstract

In the standard volunteer’s dilemma (VoD), a single prosocial act (i.e., volunteering) yields the optimal overall outcome. Whereas the volunteer’s outcome is certain, the defector’s outcome depends on what others do. This research addressed the confounding of prosocial responses with uncertainty avoidance in the standard VoD. In Experiment 1, participants (N = 102) considered 18 hypothetical one-shot two-person VoD scenarios with certain, risky, and uncertain outcomes when volunteering. In Experiment 2, participants (N = 496) considered three hypothetical one-shot two-person VoD scenarios; a certain VoD and two uncertain VoDs of which one had a lower expected collective outcome of volunteering than the certain VoD and the other a higher one. Results suggest that volunteering does not reflect a desire to avoid uncertainty but to maximize expected collective outcomes, reinforcing the assumption that the high volunteering rates we see in a standard VoD are due to social/moral preferences and social projection.

Abstract

In the standard volunteer’s dilemma (VoD), a single prosocial act (i.e., volunteering) yields the optimal overall outcome. Whereas the volunteer’s outcome is certain, the defector’s outcome depends on what others do. This research addressed the confounding of prosocial responses with uncertainty avoidance in the standard VoD. In Experiment 1, participants (N = 102) considered 18 hypothetical one-shot two-person VoD scenarios with certain, risky, and uncertain outcomes when volunteering. In Experiment 2, participants (N = 496) considered three hypothetical one-shot two-person VoD scenarios; a certain VoD and two uncertain VoDs of which one had a lower expected collective outcome of volunteering than the certain VoD and the other a higher one. Results suggest that volunteering does not reflect a desire to avoid uncertainty but to maximize expected collective outcomes, reinforcing the assumption that the high volunteering rates we see in a standard VoD are due to social/moral preferences and social projection.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:01 Faculty of Theology and the Study of Religion > Center for Ethics
06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Philosophy
Dewey Decimal Classification:100 Philosophy
150 Psychology
900 History
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > Social Psychology
Social Sciences & Humanities > Clinical Psychology
Uncontrolled Keywords:Clinical Psychology, Social Psychology
Language:English
Date:1 May 2023
Deposited On:25 Aug 2022 11:38
Last Modified:29 Jan 2024 02:43
Publisher:Sage Publications
ISSN:1948-5514
OA Status:Hybrid
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1177/19485506221107268
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)