Common Knowledge Makes Us Cooperate More

Here’s our favourite phrase: win-win. We bet it’s pretty popular with you too. So, how do we make the big win-win happen? Easy: everyone needs to know the same things.

A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology has found that when people have common knowledge, they’re more likely to cooperate and act in each other’s best interest.

Some game theory researchers from Harvard ran four experiments with 1,033 people that involved giving people various levels of information, from private to common. Each person was given a series of decisions to make, each with costs and payoffs, and allowing them to work by themselves or in groups. The key to winning most of the games, as it turned out, required some common knowledge and other player’s help. In other words: players who did the best a) had common knowledge and b) were willing to help and be helped by others.

Of course, this gets fuzzier in the real world, where people may have access to the same knowledge but disagree about its veracity. That said, it seems clear that if you want people to take your concerns into consideration, you need to let them know what you need.

Photo courtesy of Creative Sustainability

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