Ranking or hierarchy can damage human cooperation

Hierarchy can damage cooperation (Credit: Opensource.com/Flickr)
Hierarchy can damage cooperation (Credit: Opensource.com/Flickr)

Main Point:

Co-operation between human beings can be reduced as a result of the development of hierarchy and ranking among them.

Published in:

Scientific Reports

Study Further:

Researchers reported in the study that hierarchy – the organization of people at different ranks in an administrative body – can damage the human cooperation.

In the study, researchers worked with human participants and allowed them to work together to get some benefits. The only social feature that was manipulated in the study was hierarchy. Participants were asked to complete some unrelated tasks on computer, and ranked on the basis of overall performance. After ranking, they were paired in a random manner by telling them about their ranks, and asked to perform a task in order to know how they cooperate with each other.

Researchers found that hierarchy or ranking affects the overall cooperation and success. Participants showed more cooperation in the absence of ranking, whether this ranking develops from personal performance or is randomly assigned. Researchers noted that most of this cooperation is from the lower ranked individuals, who are not confident about any benefit from cooperation. They have also found that higher ranked individuals are able to find more resources as compared to lower ranked individuals.

” This work introduces a controlled way to investigate the social influences on human behavior,” researchers wrote in the paper.


Cronin, K., Acheson, D., Hernández, P., & Sánchez, A. (2015). Hierarchy is Detrimental for Human Cooperation Scientific Reports, 5 DOI: 10.1038/srep18634

Usman Zafar Paracha

Usman Zafar Paracha is a sort of entrepreneur. He is the author of "Color Atlas of Statistics", and the owner of an Android game "Faily Rocket."