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Is Strong Reciprocity a Maladaption? On the Evolutionary Foundations of Human Altruism

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  • Fehr, Ernst
  • Henrich, Joseph

Abstract

In recent years a large number of experimental studies have documented the existence of strong reciprocity among humans. Strong reciprocity means that people willingly repay gifts and punish the violation of cooperation and fairness norms even in anonymous one-shot encounters with genetically unrelated strangers. We provide ethnographic and experimental evidence suggesting that ultimate theories of kin selection, reciprocal altruism, costly signaling and indirect reciprocity do not provide satisfactory evolutionary explanations of strong reciprocity. The problem of these theories is that they can rationalize strong reciprocity only if it is viewed as maladaptive behaviour whereas the evidence suggests that it is an adaptive trait. Thus, we conclude that alternative evolutionary approaches are needed to provide ultimate accounts of strong reciprocity.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 3860.

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Date of creation: Apr 2003
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:3860

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Keywords: evolutionary foundations; human altruism; maladaption; reciprocity;

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References

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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Bruno S. Frey & Simon Luechinger & Alois Stutzer, . "Calculating Tragedy: Assessing the Costs of Terrorism," IEW - Working Papers 205, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  2. Werner Güth & Vittoria Levati & Georg von Wangenheim, 2004. "Relatives Versus Neighbors - An Experiment Studying Spontaneous Social Exchange -," Papers on Strategic Interaction 2004-33, Max Planck Institute of Economics, Strategic Interaction Group.
  3. Burnham, Terence C., 2013. "Toward a neo-Darwinian synthesis of neoclassical and behavioral economics," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 90(S), pages S113-S127.
  4. Wolff, Irenaeus, 2009. "Counterpunishment revisited: an evolutionary approach," MPRA Paper 16923, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  5. Heller, William B. & Sieberg, Katri K., 2010. "Honor among thieves: Cooperation as a strategic response to functional unpleasantness," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 26(3), pages 351-362, September.
  6. Frederick van der Ploeg, 2004. "The Welfare State, Redistribution and the Economy, Reciprocal Altruism, Consumer Rivalry and Second Best," CESifo Working Paper Series 1234, CESifo Group Munich.
  7. Daniel Friedman & Nirvikar Singh, 2004. "Vengefulness Evolves in Small Groups," Game Theory and Information 0412005, EconWPA.
  8. Bruno S. Frey & Alois Stutzer, 2003. "Direct Democracy: Designing a Living Constitution," CREMA Working Paper Series 2003-05, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA).
  9. Kanazawa, Satoshi & Savage, Joanne, 2009. "An evolutionary psychological perspective on social capital," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 30(6), pages 873-883, December.
  10. Eric Schniter & Roman M. Sheremeta, 2014. "Predictable and Predictive Emotions: Explaining Cheap Signals and Trust Re-Extension," Working Papers 14-07, Chapman University, Economic Science Institute.
  11. Biele, Guido & Rieskamp, Jörg & Czienskowski, Uwe, 2008. "Explaining cooperation in groups: Testing models of reciprocity and learning," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 106(2), pages 89-105, July.
  12. Henrich, Joseph, 2004. "Reply," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 53(1), pages 127-143, January.
  13. Gummerum, Michaela & Hanoch, Yaniv & Keller, Monika & Parsons, Katie & Hummel, Alegra, 2010. "Preschoolers' allocations in the dictator game: The role of moral emotions," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 25-34, February.
  14. Enrico De Giorgi & Stefan Reimann, . "The ?-Beauty Contest: Choosing Numbers, Thinking Intervals," IEW - Working Papers 183, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  15. Werner Güth & Kurt-Dieter Koschmieder & M. Vittoria Levati & Ev Martin, 2005. "How to Preserve a Fortune: An Experimental Comparison of Foundations and Direct Transfers to the Heir," Papers on Strategic Interaction 2005-33, Max Planck Institute of Economics, Strategic Interaction Group.

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