Vincent Buskens Discusses Social Dilemmas

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    • 00:05

      [Social Dilemmas][What first inspired you to research social dilemmas?]

    • 00:17

      VINCENT BUSKENS: I think when I started doing sociology,one of the first books I wrote was Axelrod's bookon The Evolution of Cooperation.And I thought, that was a very inspiring book,because I liked the dilemma problem.Because in the social dilemma problem,the essence of interactions between people

    • 00:38

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: are so important.And I think that is also what makes sociologysuch an interesting science.And on the other hand, Axelrod alsoapplies mathematical methods to make things understandable.And because I have a background also, in mathematics,I was very interested to combine my interestin social dilemmas and sociological research

    • 00:60

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: with my mathematical training.So this book was kind of the start for me to do this.[What other academic areas interest you and why?]Currently, also, at my university,I'm very much involved in interdisciplinary group

    • 01:21

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: of researchers studying what's called institutions.And for me, it's how institutional settings alsocan solve sociological problems, or social dilemmaproblems in particular.And other disciplines that come inare, for example, psychology, because people handlesocial dilemmas differently, because they

    • 01:43

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: have different interests, for example, and different fairnessconcerns with others, and so on.And, on the other hand, also, economicsinterest me because the type of toolsto analyze social dilemmas that areused are often based, also, in micro-economic theory

    • 02:03

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: and so on.And this way, also, in my own research,I try to bring these disciplines together.[What are some examples of where they merge?]When I analyze social dilemmas, it's very much about,let's say, what are the incentives of people?Yeah?

    • 02:24

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: And, to some extent, how can theyoptimize their own profits, to some extent.And this very soon comes near, also, argumentsfrom economists that say how can we optimize incentivesof people, how can firms optimize their profits, and soon.But on the other hand, the explanations

    • 02:47

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: that I'm searching for, and I bring in, for example,social networks.So it's not only my money that I optimize,but, let's say, I also want to function in my social context.So I have to optimize my relationshipswith others and so on.So this is part of what I want to optimize.Yeah?So the tool is very much from economics,but then, the inputs incorporate the social logical elements.

    • 03:09

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: [What new research directions do you find most exciting?]The one that I've been working with,recently, is trying to cooperate some elementsof neuropsychology, or neuroscience,into my sociological research.

    • 03:31

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: And maybe this sounds very fancy for sociology,but I can explain a little bit.As I said, the way how people treat their networks,or treat their relationships, it dependsvery much on their personality.And personality, again, depends on the brains

    • 03:52

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: of how people function.So I did actually some study involvingtestosterone administration to experimental subjects.And then, I put them in interdependent trust situationswith other people.And the interesting finding that we have,here, is that testosterone, apparently,

    • 04:15

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: reduces people's ability to place themselvesin the shoes of the other person.And what does it mean for trust situations?So if you are involved in a long-term relation, let's say,you need to put yourself in the shoes of the otherto understand that you cannot just abuse somebody's trust

    • 04:35

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: in a long-term relation, because it will spoil the relationship.And then, it turned out, in our experiment,that people with high exposure to testosterone,let's say, they function less well in these long-term trustrelations, we suppose because theyare less able to take this position of the other person.

    • 04:56

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: And so, we compare, let's say, contextwhere people meet strangers with context where peoplehave long-term relationships, whichis then the different sociological settings.And then, we show, actually, that the differencebetween the sociological settingsis going to depend on a biological mechanism

    • 05:17

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: like incorporation of testosteronein how the brain functions.[Were you surprised by the testosterone study?]And to some extent, yes.We have a long range of studies on,let's say, how the levels of trust in longer relationships,

    • 05:41

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: how they depend on this the relationshipand on the network around it.And theoretically, we're very much convincedthat this network should help to promote trust.Yeah?But it turned, in many empirical studies that we did,in the laboratory but also in the field,this network effect is very difficult to find.

    • 06:01

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: And the first reason why we did this testosterone studywas maybe the fork idea about testosterone.You get sharper, you get more into the situation, maybe.So you're going to realize betterthere's a fact of the network that it has on your setting.

    • 06:23

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: So you get, in that sense, more rational, maybe,with more testosterone.And actually, what we find is the opposite effect.So, let's say, there's actually a lack of rationalitythat is coming in by the administration of testosterone.And that was surprising, certainly.But, on the other hand, of course, because I'm not

    • 06:46

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: a psychologist from origin, you read upon the testosterone literature while you're doing the study.And in the end, we saw that what we did find actuallydid fit into many other studies on testosterone.For example, let's say, people thatare administered testosterone are alsoless able to see emotions in eyes of other people,

    • 07:11

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: in that way, to understand what the position of other people.So it fitted very well in these studies, as well.[What are the key research methods you employ and why?]In Utrecht, we have a laboratory which

    • 07:31

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: is basically a set of PCs.But the nice thing is, these PCs are all interconnected,and we use source software so that people caninteract during experiments.And so, we build sociological experiments in which peopleplay kind of games, also for incentives that they can earn,but we change the context-- so to what extent who

    • 07:54

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: is connected to whom, which information isgoing from whom to whom, how long are people connected.And then, depending on which type of social situationyou want to represent, you change the gamesthat they play.So sometimes, it's really a cooperation game, or a trustgame, or just a coordination gamethat people have to find the same behavior

    • 08:14

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: toward each other.But cooperation games, they really can exploit each other.And then, we look for the context, or maybepunishment options we also includethat might deter people from abusing other's trustor exploiting other people's behavior.But in the lab, as we do it, we can really

    • 08:38

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: get at the causal effects of the social structure,or the institutional structure that we put in the lab.Well, if you do these type of studies in this field,let's say, another method that I usedwas also studying buyer-supplier relations in the field,and looking to what extent has the buyer

    • 08:59

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: a network of other buyers of the supplier,which would also help that he can trust his supplier.But you see that in these field studies,you always get so much more comments on whatis now the cause, or what is the consequence.Let's say, does he work better with the seller because

    • 09:22

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: of the network, or did he induce that all the others alsowent to this seller because he had such a good interactionwith this person?And you see you cannot really take that apart if youdon't follow this relationship over a very long time.But in the lab, we just change the context,and we know it's an effect of the context.

    • 09:42

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: There's more and more research that tries, indeed,to follow relationships and follow the same organizationsover time, networks of organizations over time.But certainly, empirically, these studiesare pretty involved to have firms, for example.Collaborative research, is not so easy,

    • 10:03

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: whether to have them repeatedly, collaborative researchis even more difficult.[What are the advantages of using experimental methods?]As I wrote, I really am a fan of combining different methods.If you go to the lab, you can determine

    • 10:26

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: causality or specific manipulations, in the lab.But then, the questions are going to be,these manipulations, do they really represent somethingin real life?And the games that people play, do they reallyrepresent the actual type of interactions peoplehave in real life?Yeah?So this is what we call external validity issues.

    • 10:47

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: So are the relationships in the labreally representative for the typesof relationship they should represent in the real world?And so, that is an important disadvantage.So, therefore, if we test, let's say, the same hypothesison how, for example, the network promotes

    • 11:08

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: trust in this lab setting.But then, we also go to buyer-supplier relations,and we maybe also going to try to doexperimental manipulations in the field.Yeah?For example, you have a lot of issues in online markets.Yeah?

    • 11:28

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: And in online markets, they have reputation systemsto promote trust.So you can see, when you buy on e-bay,how many others had a good deal with the same seller.That this is going to promote trust.But how is this institution really set up?And there are some studies where peopletry to collaborate with these e-bay, or another platform,

    • 11:53

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: and say, maybe we can change the reputation system a little bit,and make it more effective.And so, if the sellers always can react, for example,on the buyer, this might be a problem,because buyers are afraid to say that the seller was not good,because they know then the seller isgoing to also bash this buyer.

    • 12:13

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: So we should build the institution a little bitdifferent.We say, before we publish the evaluations,they both have to have evaluated each other,and they cannot react on each other.So they are more free to say that somebody didn't behavewell, and can we implement both systems for some time,

    • 12:35

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: parallel on this platform, and randomlyassign people who want to buy somethingthrough one or the other system, and seewhere the trust develops better in the one settingthan the other setting.And we still, again, have an experiment,because we have random grouping of people,different conditions.But we also have the real world setting.

    • 12:56

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: Yeah?So we have advantage of different methodologies,in this sense.And combining that makes the research even stronger.[What are the advantages of complementary methods?]If you use these multiple methods,

    • 13:17

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: and you can write down, let's say, on this dimension,this method has a disadvantage, but then this dimensionhas an advantage.The other method has the advantageon the dimension where the other method has the disadvantage.Now, if we test the same hypothesis was

    • 13:37

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: all these methods, and we find consistent evidencefor the same hypothesis with all the methods,we can actually counter all the arguments.That is to say, yeah, but this experiment, maybe ithas no external validity.Oh no, but we proved the same hypothesiswith this other methods where there is external validity.Yeah?So if you have all the complimentary methods,

    • 13:59

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: you basically have an answer to, let's say,any comment of a limitation of one method, you can say,yeah, but I find the same with another method.So now, we really have strong confidencethat these hypotheses are true, because of same evidencewith all the methods.[Where would you like to take your research?]

    • 14:25

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: Yes.Let's see.I want to continue in doing this researchin first an interdisciplinary context,and with this interdisciplinary contextto find field settings where I can do experiments, actually,to the extent that I described a little bit.

    • 14:45

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: And one specific context where I'm nowcollaborating with a colleague in history,actually, in Utrecht, is how do groups of peoplemaintain common grounds?And common grounds, these are the fieldswhere farmers put their sheep.

    • 15:07

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: And they shouldn't put too many, because then all the grass aregoing to be eaten, and there is no food anymore.And this common pool problem is also a social dilemma problem.And some of these farmers or groupshave, in a rather informal way, managed, over many, many years,to solve the social dilemma.

    • 15:28

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: But other groups have died out, and hadproblems solving the social dilemma, whichis at the heart of my own research questions.But there's a lot of data-- historical data,but very descriptive data.And from that data, it's very difficultto see what is really the cause in this setting,and in this setting, that the social dilemma could be solved

    • 15:49

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: or could not be solved.So can we now translate these settingsin experimental settings?Or can we, in ongoing commons places, canwe maybe change the setting a little bit,and see how it matters and, in a sense,try experimentally to repeat history.

    • 16:09

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: So, for example, in the lab, this was the context,and the historians think that thisis the element that made this context so successful.Can we translated it to the lab, and change that element?If the historians are right, then itshould also break down in the lab, the cooperation problem.

    • 16:31

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: And the new historians cannot repeat history, let's say.But in the lab, in some way, we cantry to see whether we can make additional evidencethat the idea of the historians is, indeed, the real causefor why cooperation could be established.[What are the advantages and disadvantages

    • 16:52

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: of interdisciplinary collaboration?]Because real-world social problemshave so many dimensions all the time.So I think it's a big, actually, mustto involve other disciplines, to look at historical cases,to look at economic aspects of social problems,to look at psychological aspects of social problems, and so on.

    • 17:17

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: The big disadvantage is, where are yougoing to publish this interdisciplinary work?So for researchers, it's not alwayseasy to do interdisciplinary work.It's costly, because you need to learn the languageof the other disciplines.You need to learn how to write articles together.And if people have different languages,

    • 17:39

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: this really takes time.But then, you have a nice study together,and then you wonder where I'm going to publish.And then, you see that many journals are stillvery, very disciplinary ideas and also backgrounds.And so, economic journals are goingto not like some of the way sociologists do things.

    • 17:59

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: And so, in that sense, the institutional settings thatare difficult to work with, often,with interdisciplinary research.But I think, if we continue to push,there should become more journals who are open to this,and will really value the additional scientific value,

    • 18:22

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: also, of this work.And I also see journals that specifically have more, maybe,on-topic focusing.There is this International Journal of the Commons, whichcollects all kinds of studies on common grounds,but they can come from psychology, from sociology,

    • 18:42

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: from history.As long as it's on this topic, and it's well done,the [INAUDIBLE] is in the discipline whereit comes from, or in an interdisciplinary way,they will publish it.And I think it's important that there will be, also,more journals maybe focusing more on a topic,

    • 19:02

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: and good research, of course, but notper se on disciplinary dogmas, let'ssay, that you have in many disciplinary journals.[How would you define social dilemmas for your students?]So a social dilemma is a social settingin which there is a tension between individual incentives

    • 19:26

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: and collective incentive.And basically, let's say, if everybodywould follow his own incentives, or reason to do things,then we would end up in bad situation.Yeah?And one example that I use in class, also often,is a fire starts in a very crowded room.

    • 19:52

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: Yeah?So what should people do when this happens,or what would be the individual idea to do?It's actually almost always the best for an individual personjust to try to get to the door as fast as possible.Yeah?Imagine everybody else stays calm.It's easy, you can go as fast as possible,

    • 20:13

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: and that is the best to do.If others start running, you can also betterrun with them, because otherwise you will get out never.Yeah?But in both situations, you probablywill create a panic, because everybodyis running to the door, and nobodyis getting out because the door is going to be blocked.And that is a much worse situation

    • 20:34

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: than when everybody would stay calm,and say, OK, now you go out, and you go out, and so on.And so, there are many of the situations where,like the common grounds that I described,for every individual farmer, it'sthe best to put as many sheep as possible on the ground.But if everybody's doing that, there'sonly a short-term advantage they have.

    • 20:57

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: But in the long term, they end up in the commons problem--the tragedy of the commons, as it's called in the literature.[What is the value in learning about social dilemmas?How can students benefit from having an understandingof the concept?]I think it's important to describe many social problems,

    • 21:18

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: but I think it's also a very nice tool for studentsto understand some of the essencesof sociological problems.Because in sociological problems,they are so often so difficult to understandbecause the interactions between peopleare difficult to understand.

    • 21:40

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: There are quite some sociological theoriesthat try to argue what people are going to do, basically,by thinking, these people, they follow some goals,but you keep all the other people as a constant.And this is how many sociological theories stillwork.But actually, let's say, if one person's

    • 22:02

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: going to change behavior, this has effectson what other people want.They're going to also change behavior.And I think, these interdependencies,to think systematically about that,social dilemmas is a very nice tool to show,let's say, the bad situations thatcan be the outcome, although you think

    • 22:22

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: people follow their own reasons to do something.Yeah?So it's a nice scientific tool to understand social problems.But it's also a nice teaching tool,because you can simplify the situations,you can make the interdependency really transparent,also, to the students.

    • 22:43

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: [If a student could read one book, journal paper,or bulletin in this field to inspire them,what would it be and why?]Yeah.I started with the Axelrod book, let's say,as my own inspiration.I think, still, it's for students a good starter,too, because it includes theoretical, rigorous

    • 23:03

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: argumentation.But also, it has nice empirical settings,like why so many soldiers died in the First World War,while they were in this status quo situation,dug in against each other, let's say,

    • 23:25

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: and why that could sustain for such a long time.This is a very nice illustration of social dilemma problem,as well.On the other hand, I think, there'sa lot of experimental research currently coming outquickly where you also see this combination

    • 23:46

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: of economic, sociological, psychological elementsin understanding these social dilemma situations thatcan be inspirational for students, also, to pick upthe interdisciplinary ideas.[What is the relationship between social networksand social dilemmas?]

    • 24:07

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: Actually, that was the topic of my PhD thesis,already, where I studied network of facts on trust.And there are different ideas how this network effect works.And we distinguish, mostly, between whatwe call learning effects, and what we call control effects.Learning effects-- let's say, I have friends who

    • 24:30

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: try to trust the same person.They have experience with this person, they tell it to me,and I know whether I can trust or not trust this person.Yeah?And in this way, this network can boost the ideaabout the trustworthiness of somebody.But it can also quickly reduce the idea of a trustworthiness.If he abuses trust, it quickly is spoken around,

    • 24:54

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: and others are going to not trust him anymore.And actually, then, you are alreadyat the control effect, because the control effect is actuallyabout the anticipation of the peoplein the network on the future.So because we realize that, if I'm untrustworthy in a very

    • 25:17

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: dense network, this is going to destroy my reputation quicklybecause of all the network relationships,I'm not going to be trustworthy.But if you want to trust me, you can realize the same thing,and you know that you can trust mebecause you can anticipate I realizethat I don't want to destroy my reputation,

    • 25:38

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: so I will be trustworthy.Yeah?So it's part looking at what others do and doing the same,or learning from that behavior.But, on the other hand, the network effectis also working towards the future.You can anticipate on what the network is going to do.And in a dense network, this will be much more severe,

    • 25:59

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: so trust is going to be much easier in dense networks.First I made mathematical models for that.So we have game theoretic models whereI might [INAUDIBLE] simulations, basically,to reproduce these mechanisms that I described in a computermodel.

    • 26:20

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: But I also had analytic models that,and you can derive, then, the hypothesis from this.So at the end of the second year, maybe,I had a long list of hypotheses, just from doing models.And at that time, I had two empirical applications.The one was on the buyer-supplier relations.

    • 26:43

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: So we had survey data on how buyersarrange their relationships.The idea, actually, there-- I didn't mention that earlier--is if you trust your seller, you don't need so much a contract.And because at least one aim of the contract is to make sure,

    • 27:03

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: if things go wrong, that you can say,OK, but you promised this in the contract,so you need to compensate me.Yeah?But if you trust that things will be OK,you don't need a lot of these clauses,and you have a shorter contract.So that was one empirical situation in which I tested it,and in which it was very difficult to find the networkeffect.Also, I think, because the networks

    • 27:25

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: are so difficult to measure empirically.And the other was more of a vignette type of study.So I provided subjects-- these were student subjects,but also real purchase managers--with hypothetical situations.

    • 27:45

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: Imagine this seller, and compare to this seller.And then, I systematically varied, let's say,how long they knew, already, this seller, and the networkthey had with the seller.And I could, then, from their answers see,let's say, which seller they trusted better,and which factors on [INAUDIBLE].

    • 28:06

      VINCENT BUSKENS [continued]: Is this your own relation, or the network, or other typesof how they were related?What is actually making somebody an attractive seller,assuming that trusting the selleris an important reason to select a specific seller?

Vincent Buskens Discusses Social Dilemmas

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Professor Vincent Buskens discusses social dilemmas and the research he has done in the field. A social dilemma is a social setting in which there is a tension between individual incentive and collective incentive. Buskens discusses his research methods, interdisciplinary studies, and social networks.

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Vincent Buskens Discusses Social Dilemmas

Professor Vincent Buskens discusses social dilemmas and the research he has done in the field. A social dilemma is a social setting in which there is a tension between individual incentive and collective incentive. Buskens discusses his research methods, interdisciplinary studies, and social networks.

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