Human adults prefer to cooperate even when it is costly

Arianna Curioni*, Pavel Voinov, Matthias Allritz, Thomas Wolf, Josep Call, Günther Knoblich

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Joint actions are cooperative activities where humans coordinate their actions to achieve individual and shared goals. While the motivation to engage in joint action is clear when a goal cannot be achieved by individuals alone, we asked whether humans are motivated to act together even when acting together is not necessary and implies incurring additional costs compared to individual goal achievement. Using a utility-based empirical approach, we investigated the extent of humans' preference for joint action over individual action, when the instrumental costs of performing joint actions outweigh the benefits. The results of five experiments showed that human adults have a stable preference for joint action, even if individual action is more effective to achieve a certain goal. We propose that such preferences can be understood as ascribing additional reward value to performing actions together.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20220128
Number of pages9
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1973
Publication statusPublished - 27 Apr 2022


  • Utility
  • Joint action
  • Costs
  • Cooperation


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