Birds of a feather

Women are more likely to engage in international collaborations than men, according to a new study that has clear implications for government departments and organisations focused on international affairs. Tim Banerjee Dhoul finds out more

Durham University Business School recently ran a study involving around 600 university students in the US and China, who took part in a version of The Prisoner’s Dilemma.This is a game scenario first developed by the Rand Corporation in 1950 that analyses people’s propensity towards cooperating with a counterpart for mutual reward as opposed to betraying that counterpart for individual reward. Participants were only told if their counterpart was from the same country and found that a higher proportion of women were willing to collaborate than men.

“Technological advances, globalisation and increasing worldwide prosperity all contribute to growing international interactions and joint participation in projects. The success of these relies upon individuals’ abilities to engage cooperatively without formal institutional enforcements,” notes Durham University Business School’s Jason Shachat, a professor of experimental economics who co-authored the study.

The study also asked participants to answer questions about their countries and found that those who displayed a less positive attitude to their country of origin were also more likely to collaborate with an international counterpart.

Using a dataset from the US and China, the study’s results also underline the need for greater understanding between the world’s two largest economies. While US participants in the study were slightly more likely to cooperate internationally than their Chinese counterparts, those in the US also tended to overestimate the likelihood of Chinese participants’ cooperation. Meanwhile, on average those in China correctly estimated the cooperation likelihood of US participants.

Indeed, participants in China had more negative opinions towards their US counterparts in the study’s second iteration in March last year, as compared to its first iteration in December 2020. The authors find this to be indicative of how geopolitical events can shift people’s attitudes towards international cooperation. With particular reference to relations between China and the US, they also feel that the study as a whole offers guidance of how barriers to cooperation can be overcome.

“Bilateral trade between the two countries accounts for more than 10 per cent of total international trade. Collaboration between the two countries has a huge effect on the world and can dramatically benefit both the organisations involved, as well as society as a whole,” explains Shachat.

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