A Value-Based Framework for Understanding Cooperation

Philip Pärnamets, Anastasia Shuster, Diego A. Reinero, Jay J. Van Bavel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Understanding the roots of human cooperation, a social phenomenon embedded in pressing issues including climate change and social conflict, requires an interdisciplinary perspective. We propose a unifying value-based framework for understanding cooperation that integrates neuroeconomic models of decision-making with psychological variables involved in cooperation. We propose that the ventromedial prefrontal cortex serves as a neural integration hub for value computation during cooperative decisions, receiving inputs from various neurocognitive processes such as attention, memory, and learning. Next, we describe findings from social and personality psychology highlighting factors that shape the value of cooperation, including research on contexts and norms, personal and social identity, and intergroup relations. Our approach advances theoretical debates about cooperation by highlighting how previous findings are accommodated within a general value-based framework and offers novel predictions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)227-234
Number of pages8
JournalCurrent Directions in Psychological Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020


  • cooperation
  • neuroeconomics
  • norms
  • preferences
  • social neuroscience

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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