The Social Strategy Game

Human Nature 21 (1):1-18 (2010)
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Abstract

This paper examines social determinants of resource competition among Tsimane Amerindian women of Bolivia. We introduce a semi-anonymous experiment (the Social Strategy Game) designed to simulate resource competition among women. Information concerning dyadic social relationships and demographic data were collected to identify variables influencing resource competition intensity, as measured by the number of beads one woman took from another. Relationship variables are used to test how the affiliative or competitive aspects of dyads affect the extent of prosociality in the game. Using a mixed-modeling procedure, we find that women compete with those with whom they are quarreling over accusations of meat theft, mate competition, and rumor spreading. They also compete with members of their social network and with those who were designated as cooperative helpers or as close kin. Women take fewer beads from desired friends, neighbors, and from those viewed as enemies. We interpret favoritism toward enemies as resulting from fear of retribution. Our results suggest that social relations among women are multifaceted and often cannot be simplified by exclusive focus on genetic relatedness, physical proximity, or reciprocity. We argue that a complex understanding of cooperation and competition among women may require important contextual information concerning relationship history in addition to typical features of resource ecology

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