Economic games and social neuroscience methods can help elucidate the psychology of parochial altruism

Jim A.C. Everett, Nadira S. Faber, Molly J. Crockett, Carsten K.W. De Dreu
Frontiers in Psychology - Evolutionary Psychology and Neuroscience (6).

In this paper, we take stock of exciting new directions and methods in the psychological study of parochial altruism. We argue that to enrich our understanding of the psychological processes underlying parochial altruism, researchers could (continue to) incorporate methods and insights developed and popularized in adjacent disciplines, such as behavioral economics and social neuroscience. First, we highlight how the discipline of behavioral economics and its associated methodology of economic games can enrich our psychological understanding of parochial altruism through exploring the manifestation of, and psychological mechanisms driving, parochial altruism in both gains and losses contexts. Second, we consider the social neuroscientific approach, highlighting how research into neuromodulators has advanced our understanding of parochial altruism by outlining differential influences of the neuromodulators testosterone and oxytocin on ingroup cooperation and outgroup discrimination. Given that parochial altruism is at root an interdisciplinary phenomenon, it would be a pity if each discipline that studies it does so from and within its own silo. With greater incorporation of these new directions in parochial altruism, scientists can enrich their understanding as to when, why, and how people help members of their own group more than other groups, and even harm members of other groups.