How neurons, norms, and institutions shape group cooperation

Jay J. Van Bavel, Philip Pärnamets, Diego A. Reinero, Dominic Packer

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Cooperation occurs at all stages of human life and is necessary for small groups and large-scale societies alike to emerge and thrive. This chapter bridges research in the fields of cognitive neuroscience, neuroeconomics, and social psychology to help understand group cooperation. We present a value-based framework for understanding cooperation, integrating neuroeconomic models of decision-making with psychological and situational variables involved in cooperative behavior, particularly in groups. According to our framework, the ventromedial prefrontal cortex serves as a neural integration hub for value computation during cooperative decisions, receiving inputs from various neuro-cognitive processes such as attention, affect, memory, and learning. We describe factors that directly or indirectly shape the value of cooperation decisions, including cultural contexts and social norms, personal and social identity, and intergroup relations. We also highlight the role of economic, social, and cultural institutions in shaping cooperative behavior. We discuss the implications for future research on cooperation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAdvances in Experimental Social Psychology
EditorsBertram Gawronski
PublisherAcademic Press Inc.
Number of pages47
ISBN (Print)9780323990806
StatePublished - Jan 2022

Publication series

NameAdvances in Experimental Social Psychology
ISSN (Print)0065-2601


  • Cooperation
  • Decision-making
  • Dual-process
  • Groups
  • Identity
  • Intergroup
  • Intragroup
  • Norms
  • Pro-sociality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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