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Costly Signaling and Cooperation

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Author Info

  • Eric Alden Smith
  • Samuel Bowles
  • Herbert Gintis

Abstract

We propose an explanation of cooperation among unrelated members of a social group, in which providing group benefits evolves because it constitutes an honest signal of the member's quality as a mate, coalition partner or competitor, and therefore results in advantageous alliances for those signalling in this manner. Our model is framed as an {\itn}-player game that involves no repeated or assortative interactions, and assumes a payoff structure that would conform to an {\n}-player public goods game in which non-cooperation would be a dominant strategy if there were no signaling benefits. We show that honest signaling of underlying quality by providing a public good to group members can be evolutionarily stable. We also show that this behavior is capable of proliferating in a population in which it is initially rare. Our model applies to a range of cooperative interactions, including providing individually consumable resources, participating in group raiding or defense, and punishing free-riding or other violations of social norms. Our signaling model is distinctive in applying to group rather than dyadic interactions and in determining endogenously the fraction of the group that signals high quality in equilibrium.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Santa Fe Institute in its series Working Papers with number 00-12-071.

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Date of creation: Dec 2000
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Handle: RePEc:wop:safiwp:00-12-071

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Cited by:
  1. Shultziner, Doron & Dattner, Arnon, 2006. "The Puzzle of Altruism Reconsidered: Biological Theories of Altruism and One-Shot Altruism," Ratio Working Papers 103, The Ratio Institute.
  2. Bénabou, Roland & Tirole, Jean, 2003. "Incentives and Prosocial Behavior," IDEI Working Papers 389, Institut d'Économie Industrielle (IDEI), Toulouse, revised Jan 2006.
  3. Ernst Fehr & Joseph Henrich, . "Markets Is Strong Reciprocity a Maladaptation? On the Evolutionary Foundations of Human Altruism," IEW - Working Papers 140, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  4. Kjell Hausken, 2006. "A General Equilibrium Model of Signaling and Exchange," Levine's Working Paper Archive 618897000000001035, David K. Levine.
  5. Joseph Henrich, 2007. "The evolution of costly displays, cooperation, and religion. Inferentially potent displays and their implications for cultural evolution," Papers on Economics and Evolution 2007-21, Max Planck Institute of Economics, Evolutionary Economics Group.
  6. Andriy Zapechelnyuk & Ro'i Zultan, 2008. "Altruism, Partner Choice, and Fixed-Cost Signalling," Levine's Working Paper Archive 122247000000002199, David K. Levine.
  7. Ernst Fehr & Urs Fischbacher, 2004. "Social norms and human cooperation," Macroeconomics 0409026, EconWPA.
  8. Bergh, Andreas & Engseld, Peter, 2005. "The Problem of Cooperation and Reputation Based Choice," Working Papers 2005:27, Lund University, Department of Economics, revised 04 May 2006.
  9. Chris Knight, 2008. "Language co-evolved with the rule of law," Mind and Society: Cognitive Studies in Economics and Social Sciences, Fondazione Rosselli, vol. 7(1), pages 109-128, June.
  10. Fehr, Ernst & Henrich, Joseph, 2003. "Is Strong Reciprocity a Maladaptation? On the Evolutionary Foundations of Human Altruism," IZA Discussion Papers 712, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  11. Samuel Bowles & Yongjin Park, 2004. "Emulation, Inequality, and Work Hours: Was Thorsten Veblen Right?," UMASS Amherst Economics Working Papers 2004-14, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Department of Economics.
  12. Engseld, Peter & Bergh, Andreas, 2005. "Choosing Opponents in Games of Cooperation and Coordination," Working Papers 2005:1, Lund University, Department of Economics, revised 03 May 2005.
  13. Julian Dormann & Thomas Ehrmann & Michael Kopel, 2008. "Managing the Evolution of Cooperation," Papers on Economics and Evolution 2008-01, Max Planck Institute of Economics, Evolutionary Economics Group.

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