Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Promises Come At A Price

Date:
July 1, 2009
Source:
NWO (Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research)
Summary:
Be careful what you promise people. You are not just obliging yourself to keep your promises; other people will hold you to account for them as well. Researchers investigated how the behavior of other people and one's own behavior influences later behavior. If other people say they trust you, you actually become more trustworthy. If you believe you are trustworthy, you oblige yourself to keep your promises. And other people will hold you to account for them; if you do not keep your promise, you can expect revenge.

Be careful what you promise people. You are not just obliging yourself to keep your promises; other people will hold you to account for them as well. Dutch-sponsored researcher Manuela Vieth investigated how the behaviour of other people and one's own behaviour influences later behaviour. If other people say they trust you, you actually become more trustworthy. If you believe you are trustworthy, you oblige yourself to keep your promises. And other people will hold you to account for them; if you do not keep your promise, you can expect revenge.

The punishing of bad behaviour and the rewarding of good behaviour are patterns of behaviour which help to maintain the social order. Yet according to some researchers, the rewarding of good behaviour, positive reciprocity, is non-existent or virtually non-existent. Vieth's results have now shown them to be wrong.

Social experiments involving trust

To investigate how people allow themselves to be influenced by their own and other people's previous behaviour, Vieth had subjects make decisions in different choice situations. The emphasis was on trust situations and similar interactions in which proceeds could be shared. In some choice situations participants could reward trustworthiness and in others they could promise rewards or threaten with penalties.

Depending on their behaviour, participants earned more or less money. People could earn more money by betraying trust than by rewarding trust. Punishing or rewarding also cost money. These choice situations were played out one-on-one with anonymous partners. Interactions were not repeated with the same people, so emotional ties and potential future benefits played no role in the behaviour.

When one player indicated that he trusted the other, the other person actually appeared to become more trustworthy. Conversely, when someone promised to be trustworthy, the other person also trusted him more. But promising to be trustworthy also increases your own trustworthiness. With these results, Vieth shows that feelings of obligation and people's urge to be consistent in their behaviour can ensure that people keep their word.

Punishment and rewards

Vieth found that the breaking of promises of trustworthiness leads to revenge. Betrayal of trust after a reward for trustworthiness had been promised was also punished severely. Feelings of indignation therefore seem to have a marked influence on later behaviour. The fulfilment of promises was valued less highly, however. Friendly behaviour after the granting of favours led to weaker feelings of obligation than the original favours.

The money, however, had only a limited influence on the decisions to punish or reward. Only one person voluntarily accepted the costs of reducing or increasing the other person's results in situations which had not been preceded by an unfriendly or friendly decision of the other person. The behaviour therefore appeared to be guided primarily by feelings of indignation or obligation and by the tendency to behave consistlently.

With her study, Manuela Vieth has systematically demonstated for the first time how previous behaviour influences subsequent behaviour. Earlier researchers did not manage to exclude the profit and loss for the subjects. Vieth argues not only that behaviour depends on motives that are based on proceeds, but also that feelings of obligation and indignation as well as the desire for consistency influence our behaviour. Vieth conducted her research with funding from the Free Competition of the NWO's Division for the Social Sciences (MaGW).


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by NWO (Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

NWO (Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research). "Promises Come At A Price." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 July 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090630163531.htm>.
NWO (Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research). (2009, July 1). Promises Come At A Price. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 2, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090630163531.htm
NWO (Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research). "Promises Come At A Price." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090630163531.htm (accessed October 2, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Pregnancy Spacing Could Have Big Impact On Autism Risks

Pregnancy Spacing Could Have Big Impact On Autism Risks

Newsy (Oct. 1, 2014) A new study says children born less than one year and more than five years after a sibling can have an increased risk for autism. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Stopping School Violence

Stopping School Violence

Ivanhoe (Oct. 1, 2014) A trauma doctor steps out of the hospital and into the classroom to teach kids how to calmly solve conflicts, avoiding a trip to the ER. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Pineal Cysts: Debilitating Pain

Pineal Cysts: Debilitating Pain

Ivanhoe (Oct. 1, 2014) A tiny cyst in the brain that can cause debilitating symptoms like chronic headaches and insomnia, and the doctor who performs the delicate surgery to remove them. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Burning Away Brain Tumors

Burning Away Brain Tumors

Ivanhoe (Oct. 1, 2014) Doctors are 'cooking' brain tumors. Hear how this new laser-heat procedure cuts down on recovery time. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins