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Negative Reciprocity: The Coevolution of Memes and Genes

  • Friedman, Daniel
  • Singh, Nirvikar

A preference for negative reciprocity is an important part of the human emotional repertoire. We model its role in sustaining cooperative behavior but highlight an intrinsic free-rider problem: the fitness benefits of negative reciprocity are dispersed throughout the entire group, but the fitness costs are borne personally. Evolutionary forces tend to unravel people’s willingness to bear the personal cost of punishing culprits. In our model, the countervailing force that sustains negative reciprocity is a meme consisting of a group norm together with low-powered (and low-cost) group enforcement of the norm. The main result is that such memes coevolve with personal tastes and capacities so as to produce the optimal level of negative reciprocity.

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Paper provided by Department of Economics, UC Santa Cruz in its series Santa Cruz Department of Economics, Working Paper Series with number qt8n49r3t2.

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Date of creation: 01 Dec 2003
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Handle: RePEc:cdl:ucscec:qt8n49r3t2
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  1. Drew Fudenberg & Jean Tirole, 1991. "Game Theory," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262061414, June.
  2. Ernst Fehr & Simon Gaechter, 2000. "Fairness and Retaliation: The Economics of Reciprocity," CESifo Working Paper Series 336, CESifo Group Munich.
  3. Friedman, Daniel, 1991. "Evolutionary Games in Economics," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 59(3), pages 637-66, May.
  4. Samuel Bowles & Herbert Gintis, 2000. "The Evolution of Strong Reciprocity," UMASS Amherst Economics Working Papers 2000-05, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Department of Economics.
  5. David K Levine, 1997. "Modeling Altruism and Spitefulness in Experiments," Levine's Working Paper Archive 2047, David K. Levine.
  6. George A. Akerlof & Rachel E. Kranton, 2000. "Economics And Identity," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 115(3), pages 715-753, August.
  7. Friedman, Daniel & Singh, Nirvikar, 2007. "Equilibrium Vengeance," MPRA Paper 4321, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  8. Joel M. Guttman, 2003. "Repeated interaction and the evolution of preferences for reciprocity," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 113(489), pages 631-656, 07.
  9. Sethi, Rajiv & Somanathan, E., 2003. "Understanding reciprocity," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 50(1), pages 1-27, January.
  10. Robert W. Rosenthal, 2001. "Trust and social efficiencies," Review of Economic Design, Springer, vol. 6(3), pages 413-428.
  11. Frank, Robert H, 1987. "If Homo Economicus Could Choose His Own Utility Function, Would He Want One with a Conscience?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(4), pages 593-604, September.
  12. Jorgen W. Weibull, 1997. "Evolutionary Game Theory," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262731215, June.
  13. Harrington, Joseph E, Jr, 1989. "If Homo Economicus Could Choose His Own Utility Function, Would He Want One with a Conscience?: Comment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(3), pages 588-93, June.
  14. Herbert Gintis, 2000. "Strong Reciprocity and Human Sociality," UMASS Amherst Economics Working Papers 2000-02, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Department of Economics.
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