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Is Strong Reciprocity a Maladaptation? On the Evolutionary Foundations of Human Altruism

Listed author(s):
  • Ernst Fehr
  • Joseph Henrich

In recent years a large number of experimental studies have documented the existence of strong reciprocity among humans. Strong reciprocity means that people willingly repay gifts and punish the violation of cooperation and fairness norms even in anonymous one-shot encounters with genetically unrelated strangers. We provide ethnographic and experimental evidence suggesting that ultimate theories of kin selection, reciprocal altruism, costly signaling and indirect reciprocity do not provide satisfactory evolutionary explanations of strong reciprocity. The problem of these theories is that they can rationalize strong reciprocity only if it is viewed as maladaptive behavior whereas the evidence suggests that it is an adaptive trait. Thus, we conclude that alternative evolutionary approaches are needed to provide ultimate accounts of strong reciprocity.

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File URL: http://www.cesifo-group.de/portal/page/portal/DocBase_Content/WP/WP-CESifo_Working_Papers/wp-cesifo-2003/wp-cesifo-2003-02/cesifo_wp859.pdf
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Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 859.

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Date of creation: 2003
Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_859
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  1. Fehr, Ernst & Fischbacher, Urs & von Rosenbladt, Bernhard & Schupp, Jürgen & Wagner, Gert G., 2003. "A Nation-Wide Laboratory: Examining Trust and Trustworthiness by Integrating Behavioral Experiments into Representative Surveys," IZA Discussion Papers 715, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
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  12. Armin Falk & Ernst Fehr & Urs Fischbacher, "undated". "Driving Forces of Informal Sanctions," IEW - Working Papers 059, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  13. Keser, Claudia & van Winden, Frans, 2000. " Conditional Cooperation and Voluntary Contributions to Public Goods," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 102(1), pages 23-39, March.
  14. Eric Alden Smith & Samuel Bowles & Herbert Gintis, 2000. "Costly Signaling and Cooperation," Working Papers 00-12-071, Santa Fe Institute.
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  17. Fischbacher, Urs & Gachter, Simon & Fehr, Ernst, 2001. "Are people conditionally cooperative? Evidence from a public goods experiment," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 71(3), pages 397-404, June.
  18. Herbert Gintis, 2000. "Strong Reciprocity and Human Sociality," UMASS Amherst Economics Working Papers 2000-02, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Department of Economics.
  19. Simon Gaechter & Armin Falk, "undated". "Reputation and Reciprocity: Consequences for the Labour Relation," IEW - Working Papers 019, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  20. E. Fehr & John A. List, "undated". "The Hidden Costs and Returns of Incentives - Trust and Trustworthiness among CEOs," IEW - Working Papers 134, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  21. Bruno S. Frey & Simon Luechinger, "undated". "Terrorism: Deterrence May Backfire," IEW - Working Papers 136, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  22. M.A. Nowak & K. Sigmund, 1998. "Evolution of Indirect Reciprocity by Image Scoring/ The Dynamics of Indirect Reciprocity," Working Papers ir98040, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis.
  23. Cameron, Lisa A, 1999. "Raising the Stakes in the Ultimatum Game: Experimental Evidence from Indonesia," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 37(1), pages 47-59, January.
  24. Ernst Fehr & Simon Gachter & Georg Kirchsteiger, 2001. "Reciprocity as a Contract Enforcement Device," Levine's Working Paper Archive 563824000000000143, David K. Levine.
  25. Hoffman, Elizabeth & McCabe, Kevin A & Smith, Vernon L, 1996. "On Expectations and the Monetary Stakes in Ultimatum Games," International Journal of Game Theory, Springer;Game Theory Society, vol. 25(3), pages 289-301.
  26. Ralf Becker & Urs Fischbacher & Thorsten Hens, "undated". "Soft Landing of a Stock Market Bubble, An Experimental Study," IEW - Working Papers 090, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  27. Rajiv Sethi & E.Somanathan, 2002. "Understanding reciprocity," Indian Statistical Institute, Planning Unit, New Delhi Discussion Papers 02-05, Indian Statistical Institute, New Delhi, India.
  28. M. Rabin, 2001. "Incorporating Fairness into Game Theory and Economics," Levine's Working Paper Archive 511, David K. Levine.
  29. Ernst Fehr & Urs Fischbacher, 2002. "Why Social Preferences Matter -- The Impact of Non-Selfish Motives on Competition, Cooperation and Incentives," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(478), pages 1-33, March.
  30. Robert Slonim & Alvin E. Roth, 1998. "Learning in High Stakes Ultimatum Games: An Experiment in the Slovak Republic," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 66(3), pages 569-596, May.
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