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Strong Reciprocity, Human Cooperation and the Enforcement of Social Norms

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Author Info

  • Ernst Fehr

    (University of Zuerich)

  • Urs Fischbacher

    (University of Zuerich)

  • Simon Gächter

    (University of St. Gallen)

Abstract

This paper provides strong evidence challenging the self-interest assumption that dominates the behavioral sciences and much evolutionary thinking. The evidence indicates that many people have a tendency to voluntarily cooperate, if treated fairly, and to punish non-cooperators. We call this behavioral propensity ‘strong reciprocity’ and show empirically that it can lead to almost universal cooperation in circumstances in which purely self-interested behavior would cause a complete breakdown of cooperation. In addition, we show that people are willing to punish those who behaved unfairly towards a third person or who defected in a Prisoner’s Dilemma game with a third person. This suggests that strong reciprocity is a powerful device for the enforcement of social norms like, e.g., food-sharing norms or collective action norms. Strong Reciprocity cannot be rationalized as an adaptive trait by the leading evolutionary theories of human cooperation, i.e., by kin selection theory, reciprocal altruism theory, indirect reciprocity theory and costly signaling theory. However, multi-level selection theories and theories of cultural evolution are consistent with strong reciprocity.

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File URL: http://128.118.178.162/eps/mic/papers/0305/0305008.pdf
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by EconWPA in its series Microeconomics with number 0305008.

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Length: 25 pages
Date of creation: 07 May 2003
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpmi:0305008

Note: Type of Document - ; pages: 25
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Web page: http://128.118.178.162

Related research

Keywords: Strong Reciprocity; Punishment; Evolution; Human Cooperation; Social Norms;

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Cited by:
  1. L. Cameron & A. Chaudhuri & N. Erkal & L. Gangadharan, 2005. "Do Attitudes Towards Corruption Differ Across Cultures? Experimental Evidence from Australia, India, Indonesia andSingapore," Department of Economics - Working Papers Series 943, The University of Melbourne.
  2. Matthias Sutter & Martin G. Kocher, 2004. "Age and the development of trust and reciprocity," Papers on Strategic Interaction 2004-01, Max Planck Institute of Economics, Strategic Interaction Group.
  3. Ernst Fehr & Urs Fischbacher, . "Third Party Punishment and Social Norms," IEW - Working Papers 106, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  4. 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.
  5. Pablo Guillen & Christiane Schwieren & Gianandrea Staffiero, 2007. "Why feed the Leviathan?," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 130(1), pages 115-128, January.
  6. Guido Tabellini, 2007. "The Scope of Cooperation: Norms and Incentives," Levine's Working Paper Archive 321307000000000866, David K. Levine.
  7. Daniel Kahneman, 2003. "A Psychological Perspective on Economics," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(2), pages 162-168, May.
  8. Richard McAdams & Janice Nadler, . "A Third Model of Legal Compliance: Testing for Expressive Effects in a Hawk/Dove Game," Yale Law School John M. Olin Center for Studies in Law, Economics, and Public Policy Working Paper Series yale_lepp-1029, Yale Law School John M. Olin Center for Studies in Law, Economics, and Public Policy.
  9. Burnham, Terence C. & Cesarini, David & Wallace, Björn & Johannesson, Magnus & Lichtenstein, Paul, 2007. "Billiards and Brains: Cognitive Ability and Behavior in a p-Beauty Contest," Working Paper Series in Economics and Finance 684, Stockholm School of Economics.
  10. 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.

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