What kind of cognitive mechanisms enable humans to cooperate on so many diverse tasks? What is the evolved function of these mechanisms? 

Our projects on cooperation includes studies on coordination and studies on social preferences and moral judgments.


  • Schelling salience 

When there are multiple ways to coordinate, what strategies are privileged? Humans seem to make the most of ‘mutual salience’: something that is mutually known to be salient for all coordinating parties. How is mutual salience constituted and what cognitive effect does it have? One particularly important way to build mutual salience is through joint history of interactions.

Contacts: Salima Issina, Christophe Heintz

  • Institutions and conventions (the case of ownership)

Coordination is often facilitated by the existence of institutions or conventions. An example would the traffic lights together with the practice of stopping at the red light: it coordinates who goes first at a cross road. But such coordinating devices also include institutions of ownership, such as property laws.

Contacts: Reka Blazsek, Christophe Heintz

  • Leadership

A coordination problem can be solved by simply following a leader who decides what coordination strategy should be selected. This, however, requires people to deffer to the leader. When does that happen? And what are the consequences on the power dynamics and inequalities at the socio-cultural level?

Contacts: Guilherme Silva, Christophe Heintz


  • Coordination and fairness

A SMASH project

What is the role of fairness judgments and preferences when solving coordination problems? We investigate several options, including:

- A sense of fairness determines how to solve coordination problems
- A sense of fairness is determined by how solutions to coordination problems become culturally stable

In a series of studies, we explore how people’s fairness judgements take into account a variety of rich social factors, like social roles, hierarchies, group expectations, and social self-image concerns. 

Contact: Angarika Deb, Christophe Heintz

Social preferences

  • Attitudes towards inequalities 

ATI: A CIVICA project

The stability and ubiquity of inequalities in human societies raises interesting questions regarding individual fairness beliefs and social expectations. In this project, we explore how social inequalities are perceived and justified by individuals. We analyse what the social factors that make inequalities acceptable both to those who benefit as well as to the victims of these inequalities.

Contacts: Angarika Deb, Christophe Heintz

  • Pro-social motivations: reciprocity

​​The willingness to reciprocate when others make choices that benefit us has been largely documented, and it has been shown to depend on how much one benefits from the partner’s choices or actions. Is the willingness to reciprocate modulated by variables other than the value of the benefit received? We hypothesize that one important variable that modulates the willingness to reciprocate is the opportunity cost paid by the partner (the value foregone in order to benefit the partner) when making their initial prosocial choice.

Contacts: Francesca Bonalumi, Christophe Heintz, Zenja Emeric 

  • Pro-social motivations: Esteem and reputation management 

We hypothesise that the adaptive value of pro-social motivations is reputation management. We analyse the consequences it has for understanding pro-social choices: pro-social choices, even when motivated by genuine generosity, are likely to show “audience effects''. In turn, this has consequences on how people evaluate prosocial choices.

Contacts: Mia Karabegovic, Christophe Heintz

  • Attribution of responsibility and moral judgments

At the basis of praise and blame is the perception that someone is responsible for an outcome. On what basis is this perception formed? Is it based on the understanding that the agent was involved in the causal chain that led to the outcome? Surprisingly, the answer to the latter question is not an obvious yes: many other factors enter attribution of responsibility. We investigate which ones and why.

Contact: Katarina Kovacevic