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Anonymous Rituals

  • David Hugh-Jones

    ()

  • David Reinstein

    ()

Religion and ritual have been characterized as costly ways for conditional cooperators to signal their type, and thus identify and interact with one another. But an effective signal may be prohibitively expensive: if the cost of participation is too small, freeriders may send the signal and behave selfishly later. However, if the ritual reveals only the average level of signaling in a group, free-riders can behave selfishly without being detected, and even a low cost signal can separate types. While individuals cannot be screened out, members can learn the group�s profile of types. Under specified conditions, this information gain leads to greater cooperation and hence increases expected welfare. Furthermore, if crowding is unimportant relative to the conditional cooperation term, anonymous rituals will be preferred to ones which reveal individuals� behavior. Examples of anonymous institutions include church collections, voting, music, dance, and military customs.

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Paper provided by University of Essex, Department of Economics in its series Economics Discussion Papers with number 670.

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Date of creation: 08 Jul 2009
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Handle: RePEc:esx:essedp:670
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