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The Evolution of Strong Reciprocity

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  • Samuel Bowles

    ()
    (University of Massachusetts Amherst)

  • Herbert Gintis

    ()

Abstract

A number of outstanding puzzles in economics may be resolved by recognizing that where members of a group benefit from mutual adherence to a social norm, agents may obey the norm and punish its violators, even when this behavior cannot be motivated by self-regarding, outcome-oriented preferences. This behavior, which we call strong reciprocity, is a form of altruism in that it benefits others at the expense of the individual exhibiting it. While economists have doubted the evolutionary viability of altruistic preferences, we show that strong reciprocity can invade a population of non-reciprocators and can be sustained in a stable population equilibrium. Under assumptions that may reflect the relevant historical conditions, the model describes the genetic evolution of strong reciprocity as a component in the repertoire of human preferences.

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Paper provided by University of Massachusetts Amherst, Department of Economics in its series UMASS Amherst Economics Working Papers with number 2000-05.

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Date of creation: 14 Apr 2000
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Handle: RePEc:ums:papers:2000-05

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  1. Bewley, Truman F., 1998. "Why not cut pay?," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 42(3-5), pages 459-490, May.
  2. Theodore C. Bergstrom, . "On the Evolution of Altruistic Ethical Rules for Siblings," ELSE working papers 017, ESRC Centre on Economics Learning and Social Evolution.
  3. Young, H Peyton, 1993. "The Evolution of Conventions," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 61(1), pages 57-84, January.
  4. Blinder, Alan S & Choi, Don H, 1990. "A Shred of Evidence on Theories of Wage Stickiness," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 105(4), pages 1003-15, November.
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