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

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  • Fehr, Ernst

    ()
    (University of Zurich)

  • Henrich, Joseph

    ()
    (Emory University)

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 signalling 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 behavior 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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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 712.

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Length: 37 pages
Date of creation: Feb 2003
Date of revision:
Publication status: published in: P. Hammerstein (ed.), Genetic and Cultural Evolution of Cooperation, Cambridge: MIT Press, 2004
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp712

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

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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Enrico De Giorgi & Stefan Reimann, . "The ?-Beauty Contest: Choosing Numbers, Thinking Intervals," IEW - Working Papers, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich 183, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  2. 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, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 25-34, February.
  3. Wolff, Irenaeus, 2009. "Counterpunishment revisited: an evolutionary approach," MPRA Paper 16923, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  4. Bruno S. Frey & Simon Luechinger & Alois Stutzer, 2004. "Calculating Tragedy: Assessing the Costs of Terrorism," CREMA Working Paper Series, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA) 2004-23, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA).
  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, Elsevier, vol. 26(3), pages 351-362, September.
  6. Bruno S. Frey & Alois Stutzer, . "Direct Democracy: Designing a Living Constitution," IEW - Working Papers, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich 167, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  7. Daniel Friedman & Nirvikar Singh, 2004. "Vengefulness Evolves in Small Groups," Game Theory and Information, EconWPA 0412005, EconWPA.
  8. Eric Schniter & Roman M. Sheremeta, 2014. "Predictable and Predictive Emotions: Explaining Cheap Signals and Trust Re-Extension," Working Papers, Chapman University, Economic Science Institute 14-07, Chapman University, Economic Science Institute.
  9. Burnham, Terence C., 2013. "Toward a neo-Darwinian synthesis of neoclassical and behavioral economics," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 90(S), pages S113-S127.
  10. 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, Max Planck Institute of Economics, Strategic Interaction Group 2005-33, Max Planck Institute of Economics, Strategic Interaction Group.
  11. Henrich, Joseph, 2004. "Reply," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 53(1), pages 127-143, January.
  12. Werner Güth & Vittoria Levati & Georg von Wangenheim, 2004. "Relatives Versus Neighbors - An Experiment Studying Spontaneous Social Exchange -," Papers on Strategic Interaction, Max Planck Institute of Economics, Strategic Interaction Group 2004-33, Max Planck Institute of Economics, Strategic Interaction Group.
  13. Biele, Guido & Rieskamp, Jörg & Czienskowski, Uwe, 2008. "Explaining cooperation in groups: Testing models of reciprocity and learning," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 106(2), pages 89-105, July.
  14. 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.
  15. Kanazawa, Satoshi & Savage, Joanne, 2009. "An evolutionary psychological perspective on social capital," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 30(6), pages 873-883, December.

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