Cooperative coordination as a social behavior: Experiments with an animal model

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Coordinating behavior is widespread in contexts that include courtship, aggression, and cooperation for shared outcomes. The social significance of cooperative coordination (CC) is usually downplayed by learning theorists, evolutionary biologists, and game theorists in favor of an individual behavior → outcome perspective predicated on maximizing payoffs for all participants. To more closely model CC as it occurs under free-ranging conditions, pairs of rats were rewarded for coordinated shuttling within a shared chamber with unrestricted social interaction. Results show that animals learned to work together with sensitivity to the task and type of partner. Moreover, social interaction and coordination influenced both consumption of the reward solution immediately following a session and preference for cooperation, suggesting that affective states and incentives related to cooperation extend beyond the outcomes obtained. These results support field studies by showing not only how cooperation is performed but also the importance of considering how the behavior of cooperating affects outcomes and preference for cooperating.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-83
Number of pages37
JournalHuman Nature
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2002


  • Cooperative coordination
  • Incentive to cooperate
  • Individual behavior / outcome perspective
  • Laboratory models
  • Laboratory rats
  • Mutualism
  • Preference for cooperating
  • Social behavior perspective

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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