In Scientific Study Hierarchy Is Observed and Found Problematic to Cooperation

January 8, 2016

The article titled Hierarchy is Detrimental for Human Cooperation on Nature.Com Scientific Reports discusses the findings of scientists related to social dynamics in human behavior. The abstract explains in no uncertain terms that hierarchies cause problems among human groups. Perhaps surprisingly to many millennials, hierarchies actually forestall cooperation. The article explains the circumstances of the study,

“Participants competed to earn hierarchy positions and then could cooperate with another individual in the hierarchy by investing in a common effort. Cooperation was achieved if the combined investments exceeded a threshold, and the higher ranked individual distributed the spoils unless control was contested by the partner. Compared to a condition lacking hierarchy, cooperation declined in the presence of a hierarchy due to a decrease in investment by lower ranked individuals.”

The study goes on to explain that regardless of whether power or rank was earned or arbitrary (think boss vs. boss’s son), it was “detrimental to cooperation.” It also goes into great detail on how to achieve superior cooperation through partnership and without an underlying hierarchical structure. There are lessons to take away from this study in the many fields, and the article is mainly focused on economic metaphors, but what about search vendors? Organization does, after all, have value.

Chelsea Kerwin, January 8, 2016

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