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Shame, honour can fuel global cooperation

The threat of shame and promise of honour boosts cooperation by 50 percent.

Toronto: The threat of shame and promise of honour boosts cooperation by as much as 50 percent, opening up ways to tackle tough global issues such as overfishing and climate change, a new study states.

"Shame and honour...are increasingly important in the digital age of YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, where acts of shame and honour are being shared and propagated with unprecedented speed," says Jennifer Jacquet, post-doctoral fellow at the University of British Columbia (UBC).

Jacquet, who led the study, says shame and honour are increasingly used to affect policy and cultural change. For example, many US states took steps to post the names of tax delinquents online to deter tax evasion.

The study, based on a series of experiments with 180 first-year British Columbia students, is part of a series to establish a scientific foundation to encourage cooperation on global issues, the journal Biology Letters reports.

Large-scale conservation programmes use honour to encourage corporate and public involvement, such as labels that signal to consumers that products are sustainable, including Vancouver`s Ocean Wise seafood programme, according to a British Columbia statement.

"The study confirms that a shame tactic can be effective, but rather surprisingly, we`ve also found that apparently honour has an equally strong effect on encouraging people to cooperate for the common good," says study co-author Christoph Hauert, UBC assistant professor of maths.

The study builds on previous experiments showing that cooperation can also be achieved if participants can establish and maintain a good reputation, says co-author Manfred Milinski, an evolutionary biologist from the Max Planck Institute.


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