Exhibitizing Cooperation

Exhibitizing Cooperation

By Hugh McDonald, Ph.D.

Exhibition Consultant and Principal Investigator, Science of Sharing Project


Survival Game Edited 1

Survival Game Edited 2

“No way! I lost a lot of cows last year!” is not something you’d expect to hear on the floor of a science museum. But with the introduction of an interactive exhibit called The Survival Game, modeled on a resource-sharing system used by East African pastoralists, discussions about livestock are becoming more and more common at the Exploratorium, San Francisco’s museum of science, art, and human perception. The result of a collaboration between the museum and The Human Generosity Project, the exhibit is designed to engage visitors in the challenges of surviving in an uncertain environment—and the potential communal benefits derived from asking for and giving assistance to those in need.

Friendly or Phony? My Experience with American Generosity

Friendly or Phony? My Experience with American Generosity

By Olmo van den Akker

The Human Generosity Project

 April 22, 2016

Olmo Post

On February 1, I arrived at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport to start my three-month internship at The Human Generosity Project. I chose to do my internship here because I wanted to learn more about human prosocial behavior and because I really liked the interdisciplinary nature of the project. At the Human Generosity Project I was going to work with psychologists, anthropologists, biologists, and computational modelers, making for some interesting and diverse perspectives on human generosity. In addition, I was keen to live in the United States for a while and to experience first hand the American lifestyle I have seen in so many TV shows and Hollywood movies. In particular, I wanted to find out whether Americans really conform to the stereotype of being friendly, generous, and kind. In fact, you could say that my study of generosity here wasn’t restricted to the lab, but would continue in the stores, bars, and streets of Arizona. And to be fair, I did not have to wait long to encounter my first instance of American kindness.

What are “Need-Based Transfers”?

What are “Need-Based Transfers”?

A Human Generosity Project blog post by Lee Cronk and Athena Aktipis

 April 11, 2016


Being a cowboy is a dangerous job. Day-to-day life involves constant grappling with forces much larger than themselves. The ranchers that we study in the Malpai borderlands region of Arizona and New Mexico thrive on their connections to the land and the outdoors, to the uncertain and awesome forces of nature that they experience every day, and to the animals that they ride and care for. But being a rancher also means being exposed to a variety of risks and hazards. Ranchers grapple not just with the uncertainties of the weather and local ecologies, but also with taming and harnessing wild forces that pose serious hazards. Daily interactions with horses, cattle, and heavy machinery all have the potential to injure and even kill, and accidents can happen even when they are taking all the proper precautions.

Mongolia: Cooperation is Preparation

“Cooperation is about preparation:” Preliminary results from the HGP’s Mongolia field site

By Thomas Conte

The Human Generosity Project

 September 28, 2015


Mongolia’s 21st century nomadic herders are merging a centuries-old economic tradition with post-2000 tech savvy. Roughly 30% of Mongolia’s population of 2.84 million make their living by migrating each season with herds of horses, goats, sheep, camels, and cattle. This mobile lifestyle often prompts folks in the West to imagine romantic ideas of what it would be like to live in the culture of wandering warriors who conquered most of Eurasia under the leadership of Chinghis Khan and his grandsons. But in 2015 Mongolia, you’re far more likely to see nomadic herders chatting on their iPhones or watching the latest soap opera on satellite TV than you are to see them contemplating the next invasion!

“Neighboring”: generosity in the American Southwest

“Neighboring”: a preliminary look at generosity and mutual aid  among ranchers in the American Southwest

By Lee Cronk

The Human Generosity Project

 July 17, 2015



Many people dream about being a cowboy, but what is it really like? Here’s how one retired rancher described it: “There are a lot of opportunities to injure yourself.” Another put it even more succinctly: “It is a very dangerous business.” Nevertheless, those who are drawn to ranching and especially those who stick with it all have one thing in common: They absolutely love it, despite the risks and hardships it often entails.