Distinguished Professor of Psychology
Stony Brook University
Self control and social cooperation
October 12, 2007
Science 1 149, 3:30 PM
Failures of self-control and social cooperation may both be described in terms of hyperbolic discounting: failures of self-control as due to discounting by delay of reinforcement — failures of social cooperation as due to discounting by social distance. Moreover, both self-control and social cooperation may be seen as choice of distributed rewards over individual rewards: self-control as choice of rewards distributed in time — social cooperation as choice of rewards distributed over social space. Patterns of behavior that maximize reward distributed over wide temporal or social distances may be selected by reinforcement and evolve over the lifetimes of individuals by a process akin to group selection in biological evolution.
Howard Rachlin obtained a PhD in psychology at Harvard University in 1965. He is currently a Research Professor and an Emeritus Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. He has published more than 100 articles, written six books including Behavior And Mind (Oxford University Press, 1994) and The Science of Self-Control (Harvard University Press, 2000), and edited two others. He has served on study sections for The National Institute of Health (NIH) and The National Science Foundation (NSF). He is on the editorial boards of 6 journals. Since he received his PhD his research (on choice, selfcontrol, social cooperation, and experimental economics) has been continuously supported by grants from NIH and NSF including an NIH MERIT award. Among other honors he has been elected Fellow at the American Psychological Society and the Society of Experimental Psychologists. He has been the recipient of a James McKeen Cattell Fellowship (1975-76), and an Award For The Impact of Science on Application from the Society For The Advancement of Behavior Analysis (2005). He was a visiting scholar at the Russell Sage Foundation (1988-89) and an invited speaker at the Nobel Symposium on Behavioral And Experimental Economics, Stockholm, Sweden (2001).