How to overcome the detrimental effects of noise in social interaction: The benefits of generosity

Paul A.M. Van Lange*, Jaap W. Ouwerkerk, Mirjam J.A. Tazelaar

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Interpersonal misunderstanding is often rooted in noise, or discrepancies between intended and actual outcomes for an interaction partner due to unintended errors (e.g., not being able to respond to an E-mail because of a local network breakdown). How can one effectively cope with noise in social dilemmas, situations in which self-interest and collective interests are conflicting? Consistent with hypotheses, the present research revealed that incidents of noise exert a detrimental effect on level of cooperation when a partner follows strict reciprocity (i.e., tit for tat) but that this effect can be overcome if a partner behaves somewhat more cooperatively than the actor did in the previous interaction (i.e., tit for tat plus 1). Also, when noise was present, tit for tat plus 1 elicited greater levels of cooperation than did tit for tat, thereby underscoring the benefits of adding generosity to reciprocity in coping with noise in social dilemmas. The Discussion outlines implications of the present work for theories focusing on self-presentation and attribution, communication, and trust and prorelationship behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)768-780
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2002


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