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Direct and indirect punishment among strangers in the field

Author

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  • Loukas Balafoutas
  • Nikos Nikiforakis
  • Bettina Rockenbach

Abstract

Many interactions in modern human societies are among strangers. Explaining cooperation in such interactions is challenging. The two most prominent explanations critically depend on individuals' willingness to punish defectors: In models of direct punishment, individuals punish antisocial behavior at a personal cost, whereas in models of indirect reciprocity, they punish indirectly by withholding rewards. We investigate these competing explanations in a field experiment with real-life interactions among strangers. We find clear evidence of both direct and indirect punishment. Direct punishment is not rewarded by strangers and, in line with models of indirect reciprocity, is crowded out by indirect punishment opportunities. The existence of direct and indirect punishment in daily life indicates the importance of both means of understanding the evolution of cooperation.

Suggested Citation

  • Loukas Balafoutas & Nikos Nikiforakis & Bettina Rockenbach, 2014. "Direct and indirect punishment among strangers in the field," Natural Field Experiments 00637, The Field Experiments Website.
  • Handle: RePEc:feb:natura:00637
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    Cited by:

    1. Kriss, Peter H. & Weber, Roberto A. & Xiao, Erte, 2016. "Turning a blind eye, but not the other cheek: On the robustness of costly punishment," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 128(C), pages 159-177.
    2. Ramalingam, Abhijit & Godoy, Sara & Morales, Antonio J. & Walker, James M., 2016. "An individualistic approach to institution formation in public good games," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 129(C), pages 18-36.

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