Honor among thieves: Cooperation as a strategic response to functional unpleasantness
The assumption of self-interested behavior makes it difficult to explain cooperation among strangers. Economics experiments and game-theoretic analyses suggest that cooperation can arise from a willingness to punish noncooperative behavior, even at personal cost. Such behavior is often based on the notion that people who punish noncooperators value cooperation in itself. We show, by contrast, that people who like to cheat but also punish other cheaters - people who are Unpleasant, but who also have a strategic desire to avoid being punished themselves - can form the basis for widespread, even complete cooperation in society. Ultimately, such Unpleasant but strategic types can create conditions where all cooperate even though everyone would prefer to cheat.
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