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

  • Fehr, Ernst

    ()

    (University of Zurich)

  • Henrich, Joseph

    ()

    (Harvard University)

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 signalling 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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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 712.

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Length: 37 pages
Date of creation: Feb 2003
Publication status: published in: P. Hammerstein (ed.), Genetic and Cultural Evolution of Cooperation, Cambridge: MIT Press, 2004
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp712
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  1. Rajiv Sethi & E. Somanathan, 1999. "Preference Evolution and Reciprocity," Game Theory and Information 9903001, EconWPA, revised 12 Mar 1999.
  2. Lars P. Feld & Bruno S. Frey, 2002. "Trust breeds trust: How taxpayers are treated," Economics of Governance, Springer, vol. 3(2), pages 87-99, 07.
  3. E. Fehr & John A. List, . "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.
  4. Ralf Becker & Urs Fischbacher & Thorsten Hens, . "Soft Landing of a Stock Market Bubble, An Experimental Study," IEW - Working Papers 090, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  5. Rabah Amir & Igor V. Evstigneev & Thorsten Hens & Klaus Reiner Schenk-Hoppé, 2002. "Market Selection and Survival of Investment Strategies," Discussion Papers 02-16, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
  6. 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.
  7. Rabin, Matthew, 1993. "Incorporating Fairness into Game Theory and Economics," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(5), pages 1281-1302, December.
  8. Fehr, Ernst & Fischbacher, Urs & von Rosenbladt, Bernhard & Schupp, Jürgen & Wagner, Gert G., 3/02. "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).
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. Falk, Armin & Fehr, Ernst & Fischbacher, Urs, 2005. "Driving Forces Behind Informal Sanctions," IZA Discussion Papers 1635, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  12. Falk, Armin & Fischbacher, Urs, 2006. "A theory of reciprocity," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 54(2), pages 293-315, February.
  13. Sethi, Rajiv & Somanathan, E., 2003. "Understanding reciprocity," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 50(1), pages 1-27, January.
  14. Bruno S. Frey & Simon Luechinger, . "Terrorism: Deterrence May Backfire," IEW - Working Papers 136, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  15. 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 C1-C33, March.
  16. Herbert Gintis, 2000. "Strong Reciprocity and Human Sociality," UMASS Amherst Economics Working Papers 2000-02, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Department of Economics.
  17. Bruno S. Frey & Stephan Meier, . "Selfish and Indoctrinated Economists?," IEW - Working Papers 103, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  18. Ernst Fehr & Simon Gachter & Georg Kirchsteiger, 2001. "Reciprocity as a Contract Enforcement Device," Levine's Working Paper Archive 563824000000000143, David K. Levine.
  19. Lalive, Rafael & van Ours, Jan C & Zweimüller, Josef, 2002. "The Effect of Benefit Sanctions on the Duration of Unemployment," CEPR Discussion Papers 3311, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  20. 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.
  21. Alvin E. Roth & V. Prasnikar & M. Okuno-Fujiwara & S. Zamir, 1998. "Bargaining and market behavior in Jerusalem, Liubljana, Pittsburgh and Tokyo: an experimental study," Levine's Working Paper Archive 344, David K. Levine.
  22. Ernst Fehr & Simon Gaechter, . "Cooperation and Punishment in Public Goods Experiments," IEW - Working Papers 010, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  23. Eric Alden Smith & Samuel Bowles & Herbert Gintis, 2000. "Costly Signaling and Cooperation," Working Papers 00-12-071, Santa Fe Institute.
  24. Samuel Bowles & Herbert Gintis, 2000. "The Evolution of Strong Reciprocity," UMASS Amherst Economics Working Papers 2000-05, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Department of Economics.
  25. Bruno S. Frey & Stephan Meier, 2002. "Pro-Social Behavior, Reciprocity or Both?," CESifo Working Paper Series 750, CESifo Group Munich.
  26. Armin Falk & Ernst Fehr & Urs Fischbacher, . "Driving Forces of Informal Sanctions," IEW - Working Papers 059, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  27. Stutzer, Alois, 2004. "The role of income aspirations in individual happiness," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 54(1), pages 89-109, May.
  28. 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.
  29. 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.
  30. Gachter, Simon & Falk, Armin, 2002. " Reputation and Reciprocity: Consequences for the Labour Relation," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 104(1), pages 1-26.
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