Effects of Exposure to Macrocontingencies in Isolation and Social Situations in the Production of Ethical Self-Control

Aécio Borba, Bruno Rodrigues da Silva, Pedro Augusto dos Anjos Cabral, Lívia Bentes de Souza, Felipe Lustosa Leite, Emmanuel Zagury Tourinho


Ethical self-control is conceived of as self-controlled responding under concurrent contingencies involving (conflicts of) consequences for the individual, and consequences for the group. The study assessed the production of ethical self-control repertoires in laboratory microcultures under four different macrocontingency arrangements. The experiment was held with eleven groups of four college students each. They were exposed to a task that required a choice of odd or even rows in an 8x8 matrix. Odd rows produced higher individual reinforcements and delayed aversive consequences for the group, thus being labeled impulsive selfish choices; even rows produced lower reinforcements for the individual participant, but positive delayed consequences for the group, thus labeled ethical self-controlled choices. Each group was exposed to only one condition. In the first condition, each participant was exposed alone to the task, producing high rates of impulsive selfish choices. In the second condition, the four participants were exposed to the task together, with access to one another’s choices and being allowed to talk. The result was a high rate of ethical self-controlled choices. In the third condition, participants were exposed to the task together, could talk, but had no direct access to each other's choices, which also resulted in a high rate of ethical self-controlled choices. In the fourth condition, participants were exposed to the task together, but could not talk, and had no access to each other´s choices. Results from this experiment show a higher rate of impulsive selfish choices. The data on the four conditions suggest that the possibility of verbal interaction has more effect on the emergence of ethical self-controlled responses than access to each other's responses.


macrocontingencies, cultural practices, ethical self-control, laboratory microcultures

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5210/bsi.v23i0.4237

Published by the University of Illinois at Chicago Library

And Behaviorists for Social Responsibility