Research News


Negative Actions Cascade to Third Parties

image picture Image by New Africa/Shutterstock

When individuals suffer a loss of resources due to the actions of others, they often aim to recoup these resources directly from those responsible. Our study delves into this behavior, revealing that such negative behaviors not just affect the immediate victim. Often, the person suffering the loss may also retaliate against an unrelated third party to compensate for their losses.

Tsukuba, Japan—Humans are known for their remarkable propensity for cooperation compared with other species. They engage in direct reciprocity, wherein they return kindness when it is shown to them. Additionally, there is the practice of "sharing," wherein a beneficiary of cooperation pays it forward to a third party who was not involved initially. Conversely, when one faces loss due to negative behavior from another person, retaliation is a common response. However, there has not been much quantitative analysis to measure how such negative behavior spills over to unrelated third parties when direct retaliation is not an option. This study fills that void with a comprehensive quantitative approach. The results indicate that when individuals face resource loss, they are inclined to seek compensation not only from the immediate offender but also from unrelated third parties. This holds true irrespective of whether the loss was caused intentionally or accidentally.

Previously, this research group had underscored the importance of intentions in cooperative behavior involving third parties. The current study, however, highlights that negative actions, especially those that result in losses, can ripple out to third parties regardless of the initial intent.

Gaining insights into these behavioral dynamics is vital for nurturing a harmonious and cooperative societal framework.

This work was supported by JSPS (Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research), JP19H02376 (IO, HY), JP20K20651 (IO), JP21H01568 (IO, HY, EA), JP21KK0027 (IO, HY, AG), JP22H03906 (HY, IO) and JST (JST SPRING), JPMJSP2124(RU).

Original Paper

Title of original paper:
Individuals reciprocate negative actions revealing negative upstream reciprocity


Graduate School of Science and Technology, Degree Programs in Systems and Information Engineering, University of Tsukuba
Professor AKIYAMA Eizo
Institute of Systems and Information Engineering, University of Tsukuba

Professor YAMAMOTO Hitoshi
Faculty of Business Administration, Rissho University

Related Link

Institute of Systems and Information Engineering (in Japanese)

Celebrating the 151st 50th Anniversary of the University of Tsukuba
Celebrating the 151st 50th Anniversary of the University of Tsukuba