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Reciprocity: weak or strong? What punishment experiments do (and do not) demonstrate

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  • Francesco GUALA

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Abstract

Strong Reciprocity theorists claim that cooperation in social dilemma games can be sustained by costly punishment mechanisms that eliminate incentives to free ride, even in one-shot and finitely repeated games. There is little doubt that costly punishment raises cooperation in laboratory conditions. Its efficacy in the field however is controversial. I distinguish two interpretations of experimental results, and show that the wide interpretation endorsed by Strong Reciprocity theorists is unsupported by ethnographic evidence on decentralised punishment and by historical evidence on common pool institutions. The institutions that spontaneously evolve to solve dilemmas of cooperation typically exploit low-cost mechanisms, turning finite games into indefinitely repeated ones and eliminating the cost of sanctioning.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Department of Economics, Management and Quantitative Methods at Università degli Studi di Milano in its series Departmental Working Papers with number 2010-23.

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Date of creation: 14 Jul 2010
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Handle: RePEc:mil:wpdepa:2010-23

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Related research

Keywords: Experiments; Cooperation; Punishment; Evolution;

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Cited by:
  1. Loukas Balafoutas & Nikos Nikiforakis, 2012. "1 Norm enforcement in the city: A natural field experiment," Natural Field Experiments 00385, The Field Experiments Website.
  2. Faillo, Marco & Grieco, Daniela & Zarri, Luca, 2012. "Cultural Diversity, Cooperation,and Anti-social Punishment," AICCON Working Papers 102-2012, Associazione Italiana per la Cultura della Cooperazione e del Non Profit.
  3. Ananish Chaudhuri, 2011. "Sustaining cooperation in laboratory public goods experiments: a selective survey of the literature," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 14(1), pages 47-83, March.
  4. Engelmann, Dirk & Nikiforakis, Nikos, 2013. "In the long-run we are all dead: On the benefits of peer punishment in rich environments," Annual Conference 2013 (Duesseldorf): Competition Policy and Regulation in a Global Economic Order 79743, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.

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