External seminars

Seminars are jointly organized with our colleagues and neighbors at GATE-LAB.

2022-2023 Seminars

#1   Daniel Balliet (VU Amsterdam)

 Cross-societal differences in cooperation

Thursday,  November 24th, 2022, from 10:45 to 12:00

Abstract below
Decades of research using survey and experimental methods document differences across societies in how people cooperate. Theory has primarily focused on differences across societies in ingroup favoritism in cooperation (i.e., people cooperate more with ingroup compared to outgroup members) and impersonal cooperation among strangers, and that this cooperation varies according to institutions (e.g., rule of law, exposure to religion), and ecologies (e.g., pathogens, relational mobility). I will report two experiments that test these theories about ingroup favoritism in cooperation (study 1 is an experiment replicated in 17 countries (n = 3,236); study 2 is an experiment replicated in 42 countries (n = 18,411)). We additionally study how impersonal cooperation varies across societies by meta-analyzing the outcome of experimental studies on cooperation among strangers (i.e., the overall amount of cooperation, k = 2,271 studies), statistically control for between study differences, and then test several theories about how impersonal cooperation varies across 70 societies according to differences in values, norms, beliefs, institutions, and ecology. Finally, most of these studies were conducted in the United States (k =  783 studies), and we can provide a further test of these theories by studying how cooperation differs across the 50 states. Across all these studies, in contrast to theoretical predictions, we find a lack of variation in both ingroup favoritism and impersonal cooperation across countries, regions, and cultures. Finally, these efforts to code the entire history of research on human cooperation (2,641 studies) have resulted in the Cooperation Databank – a freely accessible databank, in which we developed an application to search and select studies for on-demand meta-analysis of the selected studies (https://cooperationdatabank.org/). I will briefly discuss this tool and how it can be applied to advance the science of human cooperation. 

#2   Maxime Derex (Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse)

Causal understanding is not necessary for the improvement of culturally evolving technology

Thursday,  Jannuary 26th, 2023, from 10:45 to 12:00

Abstract below

Highly-optimized tools are common in traditional populations. Bows and arrows, dogsleds, clothing, houses, and kayaks are just a few examples of the complex, exquisitely designed tools that humans produced and used to colonize new, demanding environments. Because there is much evidence that humans’ cognitive abilities are unparalleled, many believe that such technologies resulted from our superior causal reasoning abilities alone. However, others have stressed that the high dimensionality of human technologies make them very hard to understand causally. Instead, they argue that optimized technologies emerge through the selective retention of small improvements across generations without requiring understanding of how these technologies work. Here, I will present an experiment that supports the latter view by showing that a physical artifact becomes progressively optimized across generations of social learners in the absence of causal understanding. Moreover, I will show that the transmission of causal models across generations has no noticeable effect on the pace of cultural accumulation. The reason is that individuals do not spontaneously create multidimensional causal theories but instead mainly produce simplistic causal models that constrain exploration in subsequent generations of social learners. These results indicate that complex technologies need not result from enhanced causal reasoning but, instead, can emerge from the accumulation of improvements made across generations.

#3   Edwin Van Hooft (University of Amsterdam)

Boredom at work: What are the consequences, when do these occur, and how can workers cope adaptively

Thursday,  March 30th, 2023, from 10:45 to 12:00

Abstract below

In the workplace it is quite common that employees experience feelings of boredom. Prevalence estimates vary but indicate that between 25% and 87% of the employees feel bored at work at least sometimes. Early studies examined work-related boredom in the context of monotonous, repetitive, and vigilance jobs. However, more recent research has indicated that boredom also occurs in white-collar jobs. Work-related boredom can be described as a negative activity-related emotional state, implying that employees experience a negative intrinsic value regarding their work. 

Multiple studies suggest that boredom at work has negative consequences for both the individual worker and the organization. In this seminar I will first use motivational and affect theories to describe how boredom at work may lead to negative consequences and present a recent systematic review (Van Hooft & Van Hooff, in press) of the empirical evidence on the negative consequences of work-related boredom, relating to employee well-being, attitudes, motivation, behavior, and performance. 

In circumplex models of affect, emotions are usually characterized by either high or low levels of activation. Boredom, in contrast, has been conceptualized as an emotion that may involve both high and low levels of arousal and activation. Similarly, boredom has been associated with consequences indicating both high and low levels of arousal and activation (e.g., aggression or frustration vs. dissatisfaction or depression). In the second part of the seminar, I will present a paper in which we propose that the situational context determines whether boredom relates to high versus low arousal/activation consequences (Van Hooft & Van Hooff, 2018). In a correlational and an experimental study we focused on the situational factor (perceived) task autonomy, and examined whether it explains when boredom is associated with high versus low arousal affective reactions (i.e., frustration versus depressed affect). 

         Given the negative consequences of boredom, an important question is how employees can cope with boredom to reduce its occurrence and negative consequences. In the third part of the seminar I will present a control-process model of coping with boredom, to explain when employees cope adaptively (i.e., job crafting) or maladaptively (i.e., distractive behavior) with feelings of boredom, depending on their levels of trait self-control. I will share the findings of a 5-day diary study in which we tested this model (Van Hooff & Van Hooft, in press).