Negative Reciprocity: The Coevolution of Memes and Genes
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 peopleâ€™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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