When, why, and how do people help members of their own social groups more than members of other groups?

As a species, we appear to have a remarkable tendency to seek out and identify with people like “us” while distancing ourselves from “them”, and it is in our group-based character that the angels and demons of human nature can be seen: on the one hand, the shining success of intragroup cooperation that has given us democracy and civil rights; and on the other hand, the darkness of intergroup conflict that has given us the collective stains on human history of genocide and war. One of the central issues that my work addresses is the phenomenon known as parochial altruism - the tendency both for increased cooperation and prosocial behaviour within the boundaries of a group ("ingroup favouritism"), and the propensity to reject, derogate, and even harm outgroup members (“outgroup derogation").

I have conducted various lines of research on ingroup favouritism in prosocial behaviour. For example, in some of my PhD work with Molly Crockett and Nadira Faber, I looked at decision framing and whether "mere categorization" into arbitrary social groups can be sufficient to induce ingroup favouritism (Everett, Faber, & Crockett, 2015). Using a newly-developed task – the Intergroup Lottery Task (ILT) – we had participants decide, across a series of trials with different levels of economic cost and efficiency, whether they would pay some of their own money in the task to give another player a better chance of earning more money. We conducted this first in a gains frame (Study 1) and then in a losses frame (Study 2), and manipulated within-subjects across trials whether decisions were public or private, and whether the other player was an ingroup or outgroup member. Our results showed that mere categorization was sufficient to induce ingroup favouritism: minimal groups were significantly more prosocial to ingroup members than outgroup members, and that this was the case regardless of whether decisions were public or private, regardless of the economic cost of helping, and regardless of gains and losses frames. 

Selected Publications:

Everett, J.A.C., Ingbretsen, Z., Cushman, F., & Cikara, M. (2017). Deliberation erodes cooperative behavior–even towards competitive out-groups, even when using a control condition, and even when eliminating selection bias. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. 73, 76-81. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jesp.2017.06.014

Everett, J.A.C., Haque, O.S., & Rand, D.G. (2016). How good is the Samaritan, and why? An experimental investigation of the extent and nature of religious prosociality using economic games. Social Psychological and Personality Science 7(3), 248-255. https://doi.org/10.1177/1948550616632577

Everett, J.A.C., Faber, N., & Crockett, M. (2015). The influence of social preferences and reputational concerns on intergroup behavior in gains and losses contexts. Royal Society Open Science. 2(12), 150546. https://doi.org/10.1098/rsos.150546

Everett, J.A.C., Faber, N.S., & Crockett, M. (2015). Preferences and beliefs in ingroup favouritism. Frontiers in Behavioural Neuroscience (9). https://doi.org/10.3389/fnbeh.2015.00015

What evolutionary and cognitive mechanisms drive our moral behavior in social groups?

I am interested in the ultimate and proximal mechanisms that drive prosocial behaviour in social groups. In particular, I am working on the role that reputational concerns and the desire to perform social normative actions encourages behaviour in the common interest. 

Selected Publications

Everett, J.A.C., Pizarro, D., & Crockett, M.J. (2016). Inference of trustworthiness from intuitive moral judgments. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 145(6), 772-787. https://doi.org/10.1037/xge0000165

Everett, J.A.C., Faber, N.S., Crockett, M., & De Dreu, C.K.W. (2015). Economic games and social neuroscience methods can help elucidate the psychology of parochial altruism. Frontiers in Psychology - Evolutionary Psychology and Neuroscience (6). https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00861

What are the relationships between descriptive moral psychology and normative moral theories?

My work investigates how well everyday psychological judgments accord with the injunctions of normative moral theories such as Utilitarianism, or Kantian Deontology. Most recently, I have been developing an integrative model based on contractualist moral principles.

Selected Publications

Kahane, G.**, Everett, J.A.C.**, Earp., B.D., Farias, M., & Savulescu, J. (2015). 'Utilitarian' judgments in sacrificial dilemmas do not reflect impartial concern for the greater good. Cognition. (134), 193- 209. https://doi.org/10.1002/ejsp.2080

Everett, J.A.C., Pizarro, D., & Crockett, M.J. (2016). Inference of trustworthiness from intuitive moral judgments. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 145(6), 772-787. https://doi.org/10.1037/xge0000165

How can prosocial behaviour be encouraged?

As well as studying the causes of human prosociality, I am interested in how we can use this insight to encourage prosocial behaviour. In particular, I am interested in the practical implications of this work for tackling large scale societal issues like environmental sustainability and poverty relief.

Selected Publications

Everett, J.A.C., Caviola, L., Kahane, G., Savulescu, J., & Faber, N.S (2014). Doing good by doing nothing? The role of social norms in explaining default effects in altruistic contexts. European Journal of Social Psychology, 45(2), 230-241. https://doi.org/10.1002/ejsp.2080

Caviola, L., Faulmüller, N., Everett, J.A.C., Savulescu, J., & Kahane, G. (2014). The evaluability bias in charitable giving: Saving administration costs or saving lives? Journal of Judgment and Decision Making, 9(4), 303-316