Description: Social psychology often involves examining the social give and take between individuals and at some of the ways that individuals may bias their perceptions or out and out act in their own interest at the expense of other’s outcomes. This work includes things like the Just World Hypothesis (e.g., maybe people who flaunt social distance guidelines and then get sick with Covid deserve what they get) and the Fundamental Attribution Error (e.g., thinking that you are prudently stockpiling toilet paper given early pandemic demand while ithers are recklessly hoarding it because there are heartless and selfish). Have you heard about the prisoner’s dilemma game? If not, you have likely seen a version of it portrayed in a television show or film involving police procedures. Two prisoners are arrested on bit of evidence connecting them to a crime. The evidence is not enough to convict them and so they are placed in separate interrogation rooms and placed in a version of the prisoners’ dilemma. Separately, they are asked if they will confess to their crime and implicate their partner in crime. The deal on the table is this: if one of them confesses and implicates the other while the other remains silent then the one who confesses goes free and the silent one gets 20 years. If they both confess, they get 5 years each and it neither of them confess they each get 1 year based on a lesser charge supported by the minimal evidence in hand. You can see the research possibilities, right? A dilemma bult around issues of individual versus shared considerations and outcomes; is it You Are On Your Own (YOYO) or W are In This Together (WITT). So, the arrival of Covid vaccines has created a sort of dilemma. Will we act based on YOYO or WITT? Certainly, there are broad differences of privilege and means. Some can afford to fly to Dubai and pay for a shot, some can fly to a remote northern community and pretend to be locals to get a shot, and some are elderly and confined to care homes or unsophisticated in matters of navigating online booking systems over overloaded phone booking systems. How do you think we are doing in our current vaccine dilemma (NOT a game)? What might social psychological research tell us about the grade we or our governments and health systems deserve so far in dealing with this dilemma? Give it some thought and then read the article linked below and maybe have a look at a couple of the further reading links to see what other think about this matter.
Source: The vaccine game: Baffling rules, surprise winners, Elizabeth Renzetti, The Globe and Mail.
Date: March 12, 2021
A full answer to the questions posed by the Covid-vaccine rollout dilemma will have to wait for more time and more data but it is encouraging so far. Unlike Russia which put its “unproductive” seniors at the back of the vaccination line, Canada put its elderly up front along with others at higher risk (remote indigenous communities, health care workers, food store workers, meat packing plant employees, etc. As well, those who jumped to the front, or who ignored requests to avoid offshore travel for recreational purposes, were quickly and seriously shamed (even fired). While we might hope that public health would be one area where a WIFF approach trumps a YOYO approach a lot of social psychological research shows us that it is often the other way around. Let us hope we WIFF the rest of our efforts to curtail the Covid virus!
Questions for Discussion:
- What is the prisoners’ dilemma game and how is it set up?
- How would you, ethically, set up a version of the Prisoners’ Dilemma (PD) game to use in a social psychology study (hint – you could vary monetary rewards as opposed to jail time)?
- How are the PD game and the current vaccine rollout similar?
References (Read Further):
Szolnoki, A., Perc, M., & Danku, Z. (2008). Making new connections towards cooperation in the prisoner’s dilemma game. EPL (Europhysics Letters), 84(5), 50007. Link
Perc, M., & Szolnoki, A. (2008). Social diversity and promotion of cooperation in the spatial prisoner’s dilemma game. Physical Review E, 77(1), 01190 Link
McNamara, J. M., Barta, Z., & Houston, A. I. (2004). Variation in behaviour promotes cooperation in the Prisoner’s Dilemma game. Nature, 428(6984), 745-748. Link
Johnson, T., Dawes, C., Fowler, J., & Smirnov, O. (2020). Slowing COVID-19 transmission as a social dilemma: Lessons for government officials from interdisciplinary research on cooperation. Journal of Behavioral Public Administration, 3(1). Link
Busby, J. W. (2020). Understanding the anemic global response to COVID-19. Journal of health politics, policy and law, 45(6), 1013-1021. Link
Columbus, S. (2021). Honesty-Humility, beliefs, and prosocial behaviour: A test on stockpiling during the COVID-19 pandemic. Collabra: Psychology, 7(1). Link
Emmanuel, A. R. I. S. (2020). Do we experience a prisoner’s dilemma when choosing to wear a face mask?. Authorea Preprints. Link
Karlsson, C. J., & Rowlett, J. (2020). Decisions and disease: a mechanism for the evolution of cooperation. Scientific reports, 10(1), 1-9. Link
Bollyky, T. J., & Bown, C. P. (2020). The tragedy of vaccine nationalism: Only cooperation can end the pandemic. Foreign Aff., 99, 96. Link